CBS and the New York Times released a poll recently that showed that both Obama's foreign trip in July and McCain's high-profile ads weren't having much impact on the presidential race. The poll showed the same results as one taken before both of those events. In the latest poll, 45% backed Obama, 39% backed McCain and 13% were undecided. Those July poll results were the same as the June results.
One explanation might be found in the following paragraph from the CBS News article on the poll:
CBS News re-interviewed voters who said they were uncommitted, including those who had a candidate but said their minds could change, when we first spoke with them in a CBS News/New York Times poll in mid-July. In the July poll, that was about 36 percent of all registered voters.
The most recent round of interviews suggest that these uncommitted voters remain largely up for grabs.
Seven in ten remain uncommitted. And while a quarter of this group now say they have made a commitment to a candidate that they don’t think will change before the election, about as many as a month ago don’t have a candidate choice at all yet.
This group seems to have become less interested in the campaign since last month. When asked in mid-July how much attention they’d been paying to the 2008 campaign generally, 45 percent said they’d paid a lot. When asked in this poll how much attention they’d been paying in the last few weeks, only 18 percent reported paying a lot of attention.
What a lot of political junkies forget is that most Americans aren't political junkies. They don't really follow politics all that closely. They don't get up and read the latest poll results on websites like www.pollster.com; they don't read political blogs; and they don't follow the presidential campaign like sports fans do their favorite team.
There used to be a belief that Americans didn't start paying attention to political campaigns until after Labor Day. The CBS poll seems to bear that out. It is a human trait not to make decisions until you have to make them. For a lot of Americans, that means making the decision on who to vote for much closer to the election.