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Archive for Thursday, October 16, 2008

Undecided voters weigh in at Dole Institute

October 16, 2008

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Political technology was on display at Kansas University's Dole Institute for Politics on Wednesday, as undecided voters gathered to watch the final presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain.

KU professor of communication studies Mary Banwart led a focus group of 15 undecided voters, employing handheld devices to gauge how the voters felt about the candidates and their policies.

"The debates are a unique opportunity for people to provide moment-to-moment feedback about exactly what they are thinking about the debate," Banwart said.

As the voters watched the debate, they turned a switch to indicate whether they felt positively or negatively about the candidates. People viewing the debate in another room saw lines representing male and female attitudes on a screen, much as CNN has shown voter reactions during this year's debates.

The undecided voters - "leaners," as Banwart called them - said using the device gave them a new way of watching a debate. They said they wanted to learn more about the candidates and their policies, and many said their beliefs overlapped between McCain and Obama.

Bob Vogelaar, an undecided voter from Liberty, Mo., said he traditionally votes Republican.

He said using the handheld device helped him watch the debate more carefully, especially when it came to two key issues, education and the fate of the middle class.

"I just feel that there's so much more at stake this time. I'm a lot more pensive and hesitant moving forward," he said.

Banwart said, "People are taking it seriously. They want to make the right decision for the direction of the country."

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