Election 1944: That ‘silent’ vote (10-29-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 29, 1944)


Taylor: That ‘silent’ vote

By Robert Taylor, Press Washington correspondent

The “apathy” toward the election that politicians were complaining about a few weeks back has entirely disappeared as the campaign swings into its last nine days, and in its place is an interest on the part of voters amounting, in some cases, to zeal and bitterness.

The campaign suddenly came alive within the past two weeks, apparently with the realization that Pennsylvania, still standing 50-50 in the Gallup Poll, may decide this election for the nation.

Republicans, knowing they have a chance to carry the state, are sniffing victory for the first time since 1932, and they have intensified the efforts of their organization to whip up interest and get out the vote.

Democrats, with the knowledge that this election is not just another coasting party with President Roosevelt certain to raise a safe majority for the ticket, have redoubled their efforts to bring every available vote to bear.

One sign of awakening interest is nationwide. Estimates of the total vote have jumped from 39.5 million to 47 million – or a vote of 76 percent, as compared with a total vote in 1940 of 80 percent, of the eligible voters.

Indications are that, in Pennsylvania, the vote will be higher than 76 percent and most county leaders are making their estimates on an 80 percent vote (Four years ago, Pennsylvania turned in an 82 percent vote).

Registration totals not decisive

Democrats always campaign in Pennsylvania against a Republican majority in total registrations, so a big vote – anything above 75 percent can be classified as big – is usually hailed as an advantage to the Democrats.

One puzzling feature about this year’s election, however, is that registration figures, with the exception of those of some small or politically stable counties, don’t mean what they say, and that the vote can go against the majority of the party registration.

In the places where the fight is hottest, therefore, county leaders are almost unanimously of the opinion that the state will be won by the side that gets out the highest percentage of its vote – by stirring up the voters with campaign issues, by personal appeals and by hauling them to the polls, if necessary.

They’ve been working along this line and, in the process, they have discovered what may be the deciding factor of the election – the existence in populous counties of considerable groups of voters who just aren’t saying anything about the election.

This vote is reported in many counties and is described as a “quiet” or a “silent” vote. It occurs in farm, mining and industrial counties and it 1s variously estimated at from 10 to 15 percent of the county registration. It has been found in both Republican and Democratic counties.

They can’t tell which way

The unclassified vote shows up in the public opinion polls under the heading of “undecided,” and is estimated as representing the same proportions of Roosevelt and Dewey sentiment as that expressed by the voters who speak their minds.

County leaders of both parties are banking heavily on this silent vote to help them increase their own majorities or cut down the opposition’s, but, at this writing, they can’t be sure which way it will go.

A 10 percent silent vote in the more heavily-populated counties could amount to some 200,000 voters who apparently are going to keep their own counsel on how they’ll vote. In a race as close as this one, they can decide the election.