Nader "Voters" Prefer McCain To Obama

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Jul 23, 2008 at 22:59


It is interesting, though probably easily explained, that people who say they are supporting Ralph Nader in public opinion surveys overwhelmingly prefer John McCain to Barack Obama. Looking through the entire history of polls that ask both a two-person Obama vs. McCain trial heat, and also a four-way trial heat with Ralph Nader and Bob Barr, McCain is clearly hurt by the presence of both candidates in the campaign:

Comparing Two-Way and Four-Way National Polls
Poll Date Two-Way Margin Four-Way Margin Difference
NBC / WSJ Jul 21 Obama +6 Obama +12 Obama +6
ABC / WaPo Jul 13 Obama +3 Obama +10 Obama +7
Zogby Jul 13 Obama +7 Obama +10 Obama +3
CNN Jun 29 Obama +5 Obama +3 McCain +2
LA Times Jun 23 Obama +12 Obama +15 Obama +3
Fox Jun 18 Obama +4 Obama +3 McCain +1
Zogby Jun 14 Obama +5 Obama +5 No Change
CNN Jun 05 Obama +3 Obama +4 Obama +1
Zogby May 15 Obama +8 Obama +10 Obama +2
Rasmussen May 15 McCain +1 Obama +4 Obama +5
Zogby Apr 12 Even Obama +2 Obama +2
Average Obama +2.4

As I explain in the extended entry, this chart is could contain a key to winning the election.

Chris Bowers :: Nader "Voters" Prefer McCain To Obama
Including Nader and Barr in the poll question has created an average pro-Obama shift of just over 2%. Keep in mind that Nader outpolled Barr in all but one of these polls (the May 15th Rasmussen), which means that Nader "voters," on average, prefer McCain to Obama. So, clearly, Nader "supporters," as a group, currently prefer McCain to Obama.

The explanation for this is probably quite simple. Most people who indicate they will support a third-party candidate in a poll don't actually end up voting for that third-party candidate. In this case, it so happens that many people who are not very happy with either candidate, but who prefer McCain to Obama, are indicating that they will vote for a third-party on a national trial heat.

Two strategic notes on this finding. First, it shows that McCain's support is softer than Obama's. About 5% (2.4% of 44%) of all McCain "supporters" are so soft that, at least right now, they don't even support McCain when they are asked about a third-party option. McCain is keeping the campaign vaguely competitive only through a wave of soft support. With third-parties included in national polls, Obama leads by a thunderous 9.1% nationally. With a lead like that, Obama would surpass 400 electoral votes.

At the same time, it won't be easy for Obama to peel off those soft supporters. In fact, it might not even be possible. If people are willing to support candidates with such a wide range of personalities and ideologies before Obama--Nader, McCain, and Barr--then these voters are solidly anti-Obama. The best strategy might actually be to keep these voters home, or push them into third-party camps, through some means.

I don't have a suggested strategy to pull that off at this time, mainly because I don't know much about these "Third Parties then McCain, but Obama Never" voters. Since they only make up about 2-3% of the population, it will be difficult to get solid demographic and messaging cross-tabs on them. Still, even though they will never vote for Obama, they are still a key swing vote that can be used to help win the election.  


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Here's what I'm concerned about with these numbers (4.00 / 1)
Third party candidates tend to poll a lot better than they actually perform in the election.  If you recall, Nader was at 5% up until a month before the election in 2000, but got just 2.4% of actual votes.  Their supporters tend to groan and pull the lever for their least-hated major-party candidate, who in this case seems to be McCain.

This means that, if Barr and Nader are collectively polling 5% a month before the election, they'll be lucky to get half that in actual votes, and the remainder will go to McCain.  Therefore, Obama has to be ahead on Election Day by enough that he can weather a 3-5 point McCain surge over what election day polls say, and that's not even counting the Bradley Effect.

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...


Take a wider view (4.00 / 4)
You don't actually have to worry about that, because every single poll already shows Obama vs. McCain two-way trial heats.  In other words, since all polls already project the two-way campaign, there is no reason for a third-party vote surprise as you note. The only way you might be surprised by this is if you only look at polls with Nader and Barr included, and I don't know why someone would only look at those polls.

As for the Bradley effect, I've heard of studies suggesting it didn't hold anymore, but I can't think of them off hand. Wikipedia covers the topic in a cursory sort of way:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B...


[ Parent ]
Here's a recent study (4.00 / 2)
Just this week, an interesting paper was published on the matter entitled "No More Wilder Effect, Never a Whitman Effect: When and Why Polls Mislead About Black and Female Candidates." Here's a link to the PDF: http://people.iq.harvard.edu/~...

I haven't read the entire paper but did read Yglesias' short post summarizing the findings, which appear to confirm your claim that the Wilder/Bradley effect no longer holds. In fact, I believe it finds that no evidence of a Wilder Effect since the mid-90s.


[ Parent ]
The Bradley (0.00 / 0)
effect dates to the days when some polling was done door to door (Gallup went door to door well into the 80's) or by phone interview.

A significant amount of polling today happens via robocall.

There was little evidence to suggest a Bradley effect in either Tennsesse or Maryland in '06, and I didn't really see much evidence of it in the primaries either.

Interestingly, where you DID see it is in some of the exit polls, which are done in person.  


[ Parent ]
Also, regarding your post (0.00 / 0)
I think these people tend to be issue voters with a strong anti-government streak.  That means they oppose the war, are socially moderate, and want to get government out of our lives.  They associate McCain with smaller government more than they do Obama, which is why they list him as their second choice.  (Don't ask me how they could support a warmonger -- I've got nothing.)

The Crolian Progressive: as great an adventure as ever I heard of...

Nader voters = Disaffected HRC voters? (4.00 / 4)
Is there any other explanation for this group's affinity for McCain over Obama? (Other than large MOEs in the polls relative to the numbers of people involved.)

Ron Paulians perhaps (0.00 / 0)
Who prefer an anti-war candidate, but come home to McCain rather than let a "Fleet footed" black man become president.

[ Parent ]
Unlikely... (0.00 / 0)
...Bob Barr would make more sense...

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!


[ Parent ]
That would be my guess (0.00 / 0)
These are Puma's.


[ Parent ]
This is exactly what I think too... (0.00 / 0)
At least half of Nader-choosing "McCain voters" are probably PUMAs.

[ Parent ]
Um, I have a theory about them: (4.00 / 3)
They won't vote for a Black man.

See, that wasn't so hard to say....


Racists for Ralph? nt (4.00 / 1)
Bigots for Barr seems more likely.

[ Parent ]
At least there is some intellectual consistency in (0.00 / 0)
supporting Barr and McCain: both claim to be for less government spending (not counting the war, of course). It's hard to come up with any explanation other than race for supporting both Nader and McCain over Obama. At least I sure can't think of one.

Is there a single issue on which Nader and McCain don't take diametrically opposed positions?


[ Parent ]
We don't know that (4.00 / 5)
We just don't know that, and strategically I don't think it is a good idea to make assumptions like that. Certainly there are some voters like that, but I find it doubtful that is the rationale across the board.

Consider that Obama performs far better in polls against other Republicans, from Bush to Romney, than he does against McCain. That indicates a large block of swing voters who are willing to vote for Obama, but choose McCain instead.

I would love to see more information on who these voters actually are. Right now, we don't really know much about them.  


[ Parent ]
I think we all saw this coming (4.00 / 1)
It was conventional wisdom throughout the blogosphere (and beyond)that McCain was the most potent challenger because of his history of appearing moderate and wooing independents. It is his only saving grace. But that advantage seems poised to fade, largely due to the amazing success we have seen with framing McCain as a Bush-style republican. I must say that I am completely stunned at how effective that strategy has been, and I think it has only just begun to bear fruit. That swing block is ripe for the picking.  

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra

[ Parent ]
People who support Nader AND McCain over Obama (4.00 / 1)
are not voting on the basis of ideology or issues. If you have a better explanation than mine, I'd love to hear it.

[ Parent ]
Remember... (0.00 / 1)
Some of these idiots were the same morons who SWORE AL GORE WAS THE SAME A BUSH!!!    Yeah, we see how that worked out.      Anyone who supports Nader and then McCain over Obama is a moron.  Obama is closer to Nader's belief than McCain will ever be.  

They seem different to me (4.00 / 10)
Offhand, they seem different to me. The "Gore equals Bush" argument is a left wing argument. The "McCain is better than Obama" argument is not.

Then again, we could just be dealing with idiots.  


[ Parent ]
Hmm... (0.00 / 0)
I'm going with dealing with idiots.  


[ Parent ]
The Same (4.00 / 7)
I was among those who saw little difference between the two parties during the 2000 election. What do you expect from a first-time voter who grew up under Clinton? Both parties liked to wage war, pack our prisons, hate gays and deregulate industry. Both parties emphatically backed free trade. So I voted Green (in CA).

Off topic, I know, but I feel the need to clarify why many on the farther reaches of the left did (and still do) consider the two parties part of the same problem.  

"Don't hate the media, become the media" -Jello Biafra


[ Parent ]
Well... (0.00 / 0)
The two parties being a part of the problem... yes, I will agree with you on that.
I have no issue with third parties and people voting for a third party... I have issue with people who just looked at the party and didn't actually EDUCATE themselves on the candidates and their differences.  Unless you take the most simplistic black and white view, Obama is NOT the same as McCain just as Gore was NOT the same as Bush.  Researching the gray matter shows that... now I  don't think even the most jaded of us thought Bush was going to be THIS bad...

You were young and that's cool.  Now that it 8 years later, I hope you research the positions and actions and make your decision based on that.  


[ Parent ]
To be fair (0.00 / 0)
Does anyone really dispute that Gore and Bush in particular, and the Republican and Democratic parties in general, occupy an overly compressed ideological spectrum? I assume when people said Bush and Gore were "the same" that they didn't mean "identical," but rather "too similar."

Of course, it does not follow from this observation that it makes sense to vote third-party. As many others have pointed out, small ideological differences can make a big difference in people's lives. But we shouldn't dismiss out of hand the Nader-esque argument that the two parties are almost more like two factions of a single, pro-business, pro-military-industrial complex party. One faction being several notches more heinous than the other.

People whose order of preference goes Nader-McCain-Obama, however, are clearly not ideological voters - which is to say they are voting on personality, not politics. These are not the same campus-left green party voters that you're thinking about. They are crabby, disenchanted, uninformed protest voters.


[ Parent ]
I think the best bet... (4.00 / 2)
is to just stay out of there way. Also, it's further proof that people's opinions of Obama are more set than there opinions of McCain. We can push them to third parties or to stay home by showing them the real McCain.  

Clinton supporters? (4.00 / 2)
It's probably the case that a large part of that group are actually die-hard Clinton supporters that, for some reason or other, just won't vote for Obama. That may make them significantly different from other third party supporters in the past, in that they still feel some loyalty to the Democratic party and might not be able to bring themselves to vote for McCain. They could be less likely to "defect" from their third party poll response to a major party candidate than Nader supporters in 2000.

Scare quotes? (0.00 / 0)
Really?  "Voter" instead of voter?  "Supporter" instead of supporter?  Come on.

Seems inoffensive (0.00 / 0)
Erm, it's pretty clear to me that he uses the quotes around "voter" and supporter to indicate that he means they "voted" and "supported" the candidate in a poll, and might not do so in the actual election, given that third party support tends to melt away.

[ Parent ]
Quite interesting post, Chris. (4.00 / 3)
My view is that our best shot is to encourage these voters to stay home on Nov. 4th.  There would be too much mixed messaging involved in encouraging them to actually go ahead and vote for a third party candidate, especially since (speaking from experience) people can say they are going to vote for a third party candidate all the way up to the voting booth, and then switch to a main party candidate for pragmatic reasons.  

Figuring out ways to encourage voters who would choose McCain over Obama not to vote also makes sense because of how soft McCain's support is in general.  In other words, we wouldn't have to target specifically those who now say they would vote for a third party, we could just try and target soft McCain supporters in general.  (By "we" here, I don't exactly know who I'm talking about.  Realistically, I'm probably talking about the Obama campaign, though I'd love it if someone could think of a way for progressives to do this independently).

The fundamental message for such a campaign should be: "McCain is unfit for the presidency."  This is, in a nutshell, what we need these voters to conclude.  For whatever reason, we need them to decide that they can't bring themselves to vote for someone who is fundamentally unfit for the office of the presidency.  In other words, we need to discourage people from voting for the 'lesser of two evils,' since so many of McCain's 'supporters' see him this way, whereas Obama's don't, according to polling.  


I'm voting for The Constitution! (0.00 / 0)
Obama, Pelosi, and Reid are far more dangerous than McCain, Pelosi, and Reid.

The FISA vote, funding faith based initiatives, equivocation on marriage rights, duplicity on reproductive rights, capital punishment support, class action (un)fairness vote, business as usual on healthcare issues, abandonment of campaign and election financing reform, ..., and on, and on.

Obama's a pile of crap, and now I get to use all Bushy invectives over again.  


Ironic, in this thread. (0.00 / 0)


[ Parent ]
Could you clarify? (4.00 / 1)
The FISA vote, funding faith based initiatives, equivocation on marriage rights, duplicity on reproductive rights, capital punishment support, class action (un)fairness vote, business as usual on healthcare issues, abandonment of campaign and election financing reform, ..., and on, and on.

So you are suggesting that these are things that McCain, Pelosi and Reid will be better on than Obama, Pelosi and Reid?


[ Parent ]
Solid majorities in the House and Senate!!! (0.00 / 0)
Solid majorities in the House and Senate should be able to achieve similar legislative results with or without Pelosi's and Reid's sock puppet.  If they are so inclined.  

Neither Obama nor McCain would make a great or even good President.  With Obama, they will continue to screw us.  Without Obama, they will be more inclined to listen and act Progressively.

That FISA incursion on The Constitution was very, very serious.  More so, than all of Bushit's signing statements.  This set a precedent!  Now, I ask you which other Amendments can not be attacked with similar rationale?  They wiped their a5535 with The Constitution.

Now add in the other issues I (partially) listed.  Obama is trouble, and it was evident in his record for those who chose to read.


[ Parent ]
I'd love whatever it is you're smokin' (4.00 / 5)
That FISA incursion on The Constitution was very, very serious.

McCain supported the FISA incursion.  McCain supported telco immunity. You've made no case that McCain's superior on the Constitution, and I submit it's because the case can't be made.

Don't get me wrong, I'm upset with Obama over the FISA flip-flop and betrayal. But I'm not cutting of my nose to spite my face and voting for McSame.  


[ Parent ]
Main points (0.00 / 0)
Attack on the Constitution.... -- Blue shit stains all over it.
Solid majorities House and Senate can achieve.... -- If inclined.
Neither Obummer nor McSame a good President.... -- So what?
Bust up the Cabal, else we have no sway.... -- Sharp stick in the eye!

And, my one vote equals two of your votes.


[ Parent ]
My one brain (4.00 / 2)
Equals two of your half brains.

[ Parent ]
Well this proves ONE theory (0.00 / 0)
about the McSame voters.

Luckily it sounds like this one will be too toked to find his way to the polls come November.  

Montani semper liberi


[ Parent ]
Uh huh (4.00 / 3)
Neither Obama nor McCain would make a great or even good President.  With Obama, they will continue to screw us.  Without Obama, they will be more inclined to listen and act Progressively.

So if they have a Democratic president they will screw us, but if they have a Republican president they will be inclined to listen and act progressively?

If that were true, wouldn't they then be listening and acting progressively now, since we have a Republican president now?

That FISA incursion on The Constitution was very, very serious.  More so, than all of Bushit's signing statements.  This set a precedent!

You mean the FISA incursion that happened under Pelosi+Reid+A Republican president?


[ Parent ]
Um, no (0.00 / 0)
Solid majorities in the House and Senate should be able to achieve similar legislative results with or without Pelosi's and Reid's sock puppet.  If they are so inclined.

You're an idiot. "Solid majorities" in the House and Senate will not be able to pass progressive legislation under a McCain presidency. The fact is that it takes a two-thirds vote in both chambers to override a presidential veto, and in even the most wildly optimistic projections for the coming Congressional elections, the Democrats will not end up with a two-thirds majority in both chambers.

And this isn't even getting into the fact that a "solid majority" in the House has consistently rolled over and given a Republican president everything he wants for the last year and a half.

If you want a chance at making progressive change in this country, Obama, flawed though he may be, is the only choice.


[ Parent ]
Do we really have to guess? (0.00 / 0)
Including Nader and Barr in the poll question has created an average pro-Obama shift of just over 2%. Keep in mind that Nader outpolled Barr in all but one of these polls (the May 15th Rasmussen), which means that Nader "voters," on average, prefer McCain to Obama. So, clearly, Nader "supporters," as a group, currently prefer McCain to Obama.

You'd think there would be at least one poll that asks for presidential preference both with and without third parties and does crosstabs.

By the way, just for the principle of the thing, does anyone else find it annoying that they consistently poll Nader, but never ever the Green candidate? (And I'm pretty sure this would be the case even if the Greens hadn't chosen an apparent 9/11 Troofer for their candidate.) It's like when the Green party chose not to pick Nader they weren't voting on whether Nader would be running for president, they were voting on whether the Green Party would be considered part of the election by the media.


Ballot access... (4.00 / 1)
I was just trying to figure out the Nader vs. McKinney ballot access situation, but couldn't find it easily out there.  Am I wrong to assume McKinney will be on more ballots in more states?


Join the California Nurses Association and National Nurses Organizing Committee in the fight for guaranteed healthcare on the single-payer model at www.GuaranteedHealthcare.org/blog

[ Parent ]
I'm curious about that too (0.00 / 0)
And I have no idea. If 2004 is any guide though there are going to be states where Nader gets on the ballot only through the intervention of the GOP...

[ Parent ]
Maybe it just means the criticism of Obama was effective? (0.00 / 0)
My opinion is that they are probably socially liberal on one or two subjects (like pot), but are probably conspiracy theorists who are easily disaffected by both major parties.

How to keep them home?  Say that McCain is the representative of corporations, burning the constitution, and sheeple.

Or just make some 9/11 conspiracy theory involving McCain.

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Send an email to terra@liberalwiki.com


No reason to get complicated (0.00 / 0)
Just keep saying that McCain is four more years of Bush.

That's enough to keep most anti-Obama voters home on election day, because as much as they might not like Obama, they really don't want to vote for 4 more years of Bush.

So they'll stay home.


[ Parent ]
Maybe Obama should be gracious (0.00 / 0)
and support letting Nader and Barr into the debates.  

Think about it.

Its a a win/win for Obama.

Either the performance of one or the other alternative candidates locks in their voters, or it changes their mind about which MSP candidate to back because Obama supported the expansion of the debate format.

Third win: Obama supports their inclusion in the debates and McCain so strongly opposes it that they end up being excluded. More stay home because they can't vote McCain after he dissed them.


"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."


3rd party candidates only matter in swing states (0.00 / 0)
The national numbers don't matter, nor do supporters of thirty party candidates in solidly blue or red states.  They are not going to effect the election anyway, so why not support a third party candidate?  The only thing that matters is voters who are willing to "throw their votes away" by voting for a third party candidate in a swing state.  I think that number is much smaller.  See Florida in 2004: the number of Nader voters was less than 0.5% (perhaps they learned their lesson in 2000).

I think some of those Nader then McCain voters (0.00 / 0)
are simply McCain voters who want Nader to look viable because they think that will take votes from Obama and help McCain.

"The lightning whelk is strong, attractive, capable of growing to be one of the largest shells on the beach--and it opens to the left."

Not suprising (0.00 / 0)
Most of the leftists who supported Nader in 2000 are going to support the Green Party candidate and not Ralph's ego.  I don't think Cynthia McKinny is going to get many of the hardcore clintonistas.  

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