updated 10/18/2006 7:51:47 AM ET 2006-10-18T11:51:47

Call them the occasional voters.

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They mean to take the time and go to the polls, but politics is an afterthought and they never get around to voting. These intermittent voters account for about one in five in the country, according to an Associated Press-Pew poll.

These voters share some attributes with more consistent voters. They have the same sense of duty and feel guilty when the election goes by and they didn't vote. Those elements make them a bloc of untapped voters in the Nov. 7 midterm elections, when turnout is critical.

Intermittent demographics
Other characteristics of these voters: They are less economically well-off than regular voters, less educated and definitely not as politically savvy.

Intermittent voters are less likely to be strong supporters of any party. Only 38 percent of intermittent voters say there is a great deal of difference in what the parties stand for, compared with 47 percent of regular voters.

"I try to vote every time, but I'm more likely to know enough about a presidential election and I'm more likely to vote in a presidential election," said Perry Marlette, a 24-year-old Buffalo, N.Y., woman working as a nanny. "I'm getting into a pattern of being a voter every time. I'm educating myself more."

The intermittent voter is less likely than a regular voter to talk politics with friends and family, and less likely to feel intensely about President Bush, Iraq or terrorism.

Age and elections
One such voter, Joe Beaudoin, a government worker from Monticello, Ky., said he's becoming more dedicated to elections as he gets older.

Beaudoin, 27, has missed some elections because he was moving from one town to the next, but he's gotten more serious "as maturity came along, after graduating from college, getting married, paying taxes and getting a job."

With voters far more likely to feel frustrated and angry this year than they were in late 2001, those recruiting voters on both sides are targeting the intermittent voter in what may be high turnout for a midterm election.

"We are focusing more on voters who voted in 2004 but not in 2002," said Karen Ackerman, political director of the AFL-CIO, which has committed more than $40 million to turning out the vote. "We're putting more emphasis on why this election is important."

Control of congress
Republicans are making plans to deal with a voter base that is less enthusiastic than Democratic-leaning voters. That extends to the intermittent voters, with intermittent Democratic voters inclined to say they're more enthusiastic this year, by 44 percent to 38 percent, and Republicans who are intermittent voters saying they are less enthusiastic, by 36 percent to 28 percent. 2006 key races

The GOP will follow the same strategy it has used with success in the last two elections, said Michael DuHaime, political director of the Republican National Committee. Four years ago, the GOP turned out many of its intermittent voters using such techniques as carefully targeting potential voters, contacting them repeatedly and getting a commitment that they will vote.

The stakes for recruiting intermittent voters are high for both political parties. In 2002, about 40 percent of the voting age population, or about 77.5 million people, turned out to vote. Just two years later, more than 122 million, or 62 percent, turned out in the presidential contest.

The parties' focus on intermittent voters doesn't mean they won't spend time contacting the 35 percent who describe themselves as regular voters.

Regular voters are more likely to be white, older, better educated and with higher incomes. They talk politics regularly with friends and family and at work. They have a vested interest in what happens in their community and country.

"I always vote. If you don't vote, you don't have an opinion," said Vermont retiree Bob Cosgrove, who remembers one time he didn't vote. "It wasn't my fault. I was working and I couldn't get to the voting polls. My shift had ended and my boss asked me to stay late."

Non-voter statistics
Less attention will be paid to the almost half in the poll who can generally be considered nonvoters - either they aren't registered to vote, 15 percent, or are registered and rarely vote, 30 percent, according to the survey of 1,804 adults, including 1,503 registered voters. The poll was conducted Sept. 21-Oct. 4 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Those who aren't registered are much more likely to be young adults, to have children, to be less educated, to have lower incomes and be less religious. That profile of nonvoters can make it tougher for Democrats to turn out their supporters, but Democrats are very energized this year.

Just as nonvoters are poorly connected to politics, they are likely to be disconnected from their communities, the poll found. Nonvoters are less likely to trust others, less likely to have a strong support network of friends and family, and less likely to be established in their communities, the poll found.

Frustration is threatening to turn Tasha Collins, a 21-year-old nonvoter from Concordia, Kan., into an intermittent voter - at least.

"I'm kind of frustrated because innocent lives are being put at stake in Iraq," she said. "I'm not sure I'm going to vote all the time, but I think I will this year because I don't agree with the war."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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