Painting a Picture of Purple Voters

Those Who'll Determine Which Way Key States Will Swing Aren't as Middle-of-the-Road as You Might Think

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In the coming weeks, ever-elusive swing-state voters will be endlessly discussed by pundits, news anchors and the candidates' camps. They will attract millions of dollars in campaign ads, as well as one-on-one attention from the candidates. So just who are the voters who will ostensibly choose the next U.S. president? Turns out they're not as middle-of-the-road as you might think.

Purple states
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Purple voters will have the most sway in swing states, where neither red nor blue voters dominate.
In a study by Acxiom, "The Purple States: Why They Affect Elections," states were organized into three groups: red, blue and purple. Purple states were determined by whether they are considered swing states in the upcoming election and whether the margins of victory in them in the past two elections were relatively small.

Acxiom then used its Personicx consumer-segmentation tools, which it employs to help clients better target their marketing, to unveil characteristics of the people in those states and divide them into red, blue and purple voters. Mediamark Research & Intelligence's Survey of the American Consumer was used as a source of behavioral information.

Distinct differences and similarities emerged among the purple, red and blue voters in each state. Perhaps most surprising was the fact that purple voters identified themselves as more conservative than liberal and, in several categories, aligned more closely with red or Republican voters. On average, purple voters are older and either retired or nearing retirement, factors that likely cause the group to identify as more conservative, said Ray Kraus, a product manager in Acxiom's Information Products Group. They are the group most likely to watch Fox News, in fact.

"A lot of people say this is a center, center-right kind of country," he said, and purple voters' conservative leanings support that theory.

But purple voters don't control any state. Pennsylvania's electorate, for example, consists of 20% purple voters, 25% blue voters and 21% red voters, leaving the state up for grabs.

"It was interesting how distinct the blue groups and red groups were," Mr. Kraus said. "In purple states ... a specific group or segment of the population didn't dominate. You can start to see why these states are more of a battleground when it comes to elections."

In both of the past two elections, purple states accounted for a plurality of the vote, at slightly more than one-third of votes cast.

So what is the way to a purple voter's heart? The study suggests that targeting older populations will be key for both parties. Republicans should appeal to their conservative tendencies, while Democrats should address economic and health-care issues, both of primary concern to purple voters.
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