Undecided voters getting more conflicted as election nears

Final presidential debate only confuses them more

DecodeDC is following four undecided voters as part of “Voters on the Fence,” a series of stories about people who are struggling to make a decision about which presidential candidate is right for them.

Time is getting short until Election Day, and that seems to be making our “Voters on the Fence” even more uncertain.

No one seemed closer to a firm decision on whom to vote for after the final presidential debate Wednesday night.

Emily Werff was the first of the undecided voters to commit to a candidate. Following the first presidential debate she said she was determined to vote for Hillary Clinton after being torn between the former Secretary of State and Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. But following Wednesday’s final face-off — which she said she only watched because her 9-year-old son asked her to — she is now trying to decide between Clinton and Donald Trump.

“I actually thought Trump won this one,” said Werff, 38, from Cincinnati, Ohio. “I think his ideas for what he wants to do get lost in the mudslinging, and when he actually stands normal and doesn’t yell and actually gets down to the issues instead of just going back and forth and just bad mouthing, there are a lot of things that he has to say. For this time it didn’t get lost."

Trump’s comments about immigration reform and cutting back foreign aid to countries especially resonated with her, while Clinton’s stance on late-term abortion really turned her off because she’s largely a pro-life voter.

Werff said now that she’s seen a calmer side of Trump, it helps change her view of the Republican nominee, whom she previously couldn’t see “doing things like talking to foreign officials, or even sitting down and talking to his cabinet members and deciding on issues and not bulldozing them because that’s what he does — I never saw him as a person who could do that because he’s always so loud and obnoxious and bullying.”

She says it’s likely that her vote will come down to a pros-and-cons list because she knows that neither candidate will ever fit with her views 100 percent.

“I’m such an independent. On this issue I’m Democratic, on another I’m Republican — nobody lines up with me … so where does that leave me?” she said.

Deb Morrison, 56, of Vevay, Ind., has moved back and forth between candidates the most, changing her mind almost weekly — but after Wednesdays debate she’s seriously considering not voting at all.

“It’s just worse. I don’t think I’ve ever been this discouraged and probably embarrassed, and I’m almost to the point where I don’t want to vote,” Morrison said.

She says it would be the first time she didn’t vote.

Last week’s Wikileaks releases of Clinton’s emails really worried Morrison, who has been struggling the entire election with trusting the Democratic nominee. Trump, on the other hand, “scares her” because she thinks he’s impulsive, although she agrees with his economic policies.

“Here’s my dilemma. I put [Clinton] into the entire political system and Republicans, Democrats, everybody. So there are times where I waver and think, all of you folks are just so adamant about Trump not getting in there, he’s an outsider, so I want to believe maybe that’s what we need,” Morrison said. “And then every time he opens his mouth, I go, ‘Oh this isn’t good.’”

Frustration is the strongest feeling she gets when she thinks of the presidential options on the table.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen such a … choice for president. They’re both on the same plane. I just don’t see a choice in this election. And then Gary Johnson I think is a non-factor. It’s just frustrating, so I really am thinking about not voting.”

Alon Sendowski, 26, from Prince Georges County, Md., said last week that he was also considering sitting out the election and Wednesday night didn’t change that. He watched the debate but didn’t see a clear winner. He still views Clinton as the most presidential but wishes she would more directly address the national debt. He agrees with Trump’s opinions on immigration, but views him as the “high risk, high rewards” candidate, while Clinton is more “status-quo,” which he says isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“I think it’s mainly that I’m not excited about either candidate. I voted in the last two elections because I could get behind them. Obama was so charismatic, we needed change, it was exciting, and, with Mitt Romney, he was so presidential he seemed really smart,” Sendowski said. “If I can’t get behind a candidate, I don’t know if I need to go out of my way to vote for them. It’s like deciding that I dislike you less than I dislike the other candidate, and I don’t know if that’s the way to get into voting.”

Margaret Deluca, 56, of Lakewood, Colo., was the only voter who didn't change her mind following the debate. She is now a committed Clinton supporter — albeit one with reservations, as she likes to say.

"All Trump did was insult deeper. His true colors just keep coming out more and more; it’s embarrassing to the whole Republican Party I think," she said. "Hillary seems very confident and I don’t doubt any of her qualifications."

Deluca, however, is still disappointed that Clinton has not taken a stronger stance on immigration, an issue Deluca says is huge in Colorado because "we are getting swamped." She also wishes Clinton were less liberal on taxes and would address the national deficit. But at the end of the day, Clinton still has her vote.

We are interested in talking with other undecided voters, so if you think that describes you, send us an email at decodedc@scripps.com, and tell us why. 

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