Race's wild card: The ‘persuadables'

Elizabeth Johnson likes John McCain except for a couple of not-so-little things she can't ignore: She wants the Iraq war to end, and she's not a fan of Sarah Palin, his running mate. Chalk her up as leaning McCain, but not solidly.

“I like to take in everything around me,” said Johnson, 26, a Republican homemaker from St. Louis, Mo., who suspects she'll make her presidential pick “when I walk through and open up that curtain” to the voting booth.

Johnson is part of a wedge of people still making up their minds. One in seven, or 14 percent, can't decide, or back a candidate but might switch, according to an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll of likely voters released Friday.

Who are they?

They look a lot like the voters who've already locked onto a candidate, though they're more likely to be white and less likely to be liberal. Many question whether McCain or Barack Obama can straighten out the economy, and they disproportionately backed Hillary Rodham Clinton's failed run for the Democratic nomination.

Fueling their uncertainty is a combination of disliking something about both candidates and frustration with this campaign and politics in general.

“We have a lot of candidates who have never really hurt, have never had to struggle” economically, said Jeff Wofford, 28, a Republican pastor from High Ridge, Mo., who may back McCain. “A lot of candidates are interested in working the political system but aren't really interested in changing things.”

Overall, the share of these voters – sometimes referred to as “persuadables” – has barely budged from levels measured in June and September AP-Yahoo News polls, conducted online by Knowledge Networks.

But the survey – which has repeatedly quizzed the same group of 2,000 adults since last November – shows churning below the surface. Of those now changeable, nearly three-quarters said in June their minds were made up, and half said so just last month.