On not having to run the table

48% of adults in a poll say that they definitely would not vote for Al Gore; 47% say the same about Clinton and Kerry. Shouldn’t the Democrats nominate someone else, then?

According to a Harris Interactive poll of 1000 adults nationwide (i.e, not just registered or likely voters), when asked about Presidential prospects for 2008:

63% say they would “definitely not vote for” Jeb Bush;

48% say they would “definitely not vote for” Al Gore;

47% say they would “definitely not vote for” Hillary Clinton;

47% say they would “definitely not vote for” John Kerry;

34% say they would “definitely not vote for” John McCain;

30% say they would “definitely not vote for” Rudy Giuliani.

That suggests to me that the Republicans shouldn’t nominate Jeb, and that the Democrats shouldn’t nominate Gore, Clinton, or Kerry. The poll didn’t ask about Clark, Warner, Edwards, or Obama, but I doubt that any of them would start out needing to win virtually every voter not already committed to voting against him.

If the numbers suggest something else to you, I’d be interested in your analysis.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

21 thoughts on “On not having to run the table”

  1. The numbers suggest a McCain/Guiliani ticket would win. Would it win against a Wes/Obama ticket? That is a poll I would like to see with other variations present as well. Also, Pres/VP versus just Pres tickets seeing if that changes the numbers. The country may not be ready for a woman or a minority as Pres but maybe as VP. Just some thoughts…

  2. I'd be interested in the partisan breakdown (or liberal, moderate, conservative breakdown) because I can imagina a lot of gaming going on. If someone asked me about Kerry or Clinton, I would definitely say that I was definitely not voting for either one to forestall the possibility of them gaining the nomination, but if they were the nominee, there would be no way I wouldn't vote for them.

  3. I think Guliani's numbers would change when people learned more about his marital history.

  4. You have to give some weight to the "definitely vote for" column, in which Hillary leads the pack (but with only 22%) – and Jeb trails, so he's doubly a non-starter. The "definitely fors" could be a reasonable proxy for early campaign contributions, which a candidate needs needs to change perceptions.
    Hillary doesn't convince me for one she would make a good president – unlike Kerry, she really is an unprincipled trimmer. But as a candidate, is she really doomed to lose?

  5. I think it's quite interesting that the only named Republican who (Recently) doesn't beat the Democrat is Jeb, who unfairly or not faces an electorate poisoned by his father and brother. At a time when the generic race is running 50-31 Democratic!
    IOW, your potential candidates are polling beneath your party. Sounds like you really need some fresh blood…
    That said, who polls "adults, not just registered or likely voters", when trying to figure out who might win an election? Somebody who doesn't really care if the results are accurate, I suppose.

  6. June,
    I think you are right that our current president poisoned the water for Jeb. I don't think you can blame their father though. My (dim, fading) memory is that a significant part of W's early lead in the Republican primary polls came from voters who thought they were being asked about his father.

  7. The problem with nomination Hilary is not the people who 'won't vote FOR her.' The Republicans are heading for a classic Goldwater-style meltdown as the various wings begin fighting among themselves. Even now, there are budget hawks and Christianists who are attacking Bush for being too liberal and claim they can win if they just purge the party. Then you have the libertarians, the war hawks, and the moderates.
    There are only two things that can keep them from a really bloody infighting, the chance to vote FOR Condi — which won't keep everybody in line, but will help — and the chance to vote AGAINST Hilary. Nominating her will automatically increase the percentage of Republicans going to the polls by 5%.

  8. To me,these numbers are more evidence that the public is convinced that their government and politicians are headed in the completely wrong direction in just about every thing it does. AS a result the more a politician is thought to be participating in and therefore responsible for the current state of affairs the less likely they are to be elected. This seems to be another instance of "the power of weakness."
    Interestingly, this does not seem to be just a Washington circumstance. In my neighborhood there seems to be as much dissatisfaction with the direction of local governments as with the Feds. Among the towns here, hardly any incumbent town council members have been reelected in the last couple of years. The issues that plague the incumbents vary from town to town, but the "throw all the bums out" mentality prevails everywhere, it seems. This may mean that GWB has the longest negative coattails since Herbert Hoover.
    All of this suggests to me that the next presidential sweepstakes winner is more likely to be the most interesting total outsider. Thus the more that a candidate gains credibility as a factor on the political scene the less viable their chances may be. Thus, the more viable Obama, Clark, McCain or other outsiders become as a shaper of events right now the less their chances in the end.

  9. But as a candidate, is [Hillary] really doomed to lose?
    I think there are still a significant number of people in this country who won't vote for a woman, no matter what. That's a handicap, but not necessarily an insurmountable one.
    I know there are a significant number of people in this country who won't vote for a Clinton, particularly not that one.

  10. Since they're just polling adults, not registered or likely voters, I wonder if the sample is skewed by the presence of people who are so annoyed at politicians generally that they're really a non-factor at election time. Maybe there should have been a choice for "definitely not vote."

  11. Doesn't mean much of anything. It is the results of that poll for Democratic candidates _after_ the Mighty Wurlitzer(tm) has been running for a month that matters. And they don't fire that baby up until halfway through the Dem primary season.

  12. Unfortunately, the one other thing that the data possibly suggest to me is that something close to 47% will always refuse to vote for someone they know is a Democrat, while only something close to 35% will always refuse to vote for someone they know is a Republican. Like you, I'd love to see some more politicians added to the mix although it's quite possible that these are the only eligible Democrats with high enough name-recognition to make it worthwhile.
    Also, like Callender says, just because 47% of adults would never vote for you doesn't mean you need to win over all the other adults. In 2000, George Bush won the presidency with about 50 million votes, less than 1 in 4 American adults.

  13. The numbers suggest it is too early to worry about the numbers.
    The average voter has the attention span of a fruit fly. George Bush's entire career in politics depends on that simple fact.

  14. Asking 1000 Americans a political polling question without regard to voting status, registration or likely voting is quite likely to generate inaccurate results. This type of poll would be fine if you were asking if Tide is the most popular detergent, Colgate the most popular toothpaste or Uncle Ben's the most popular rice. Not so good in political campaigns where the likelihood of voting is critical.
    Nevertheless, troubling questions are raised about who the personality should be to carry the Democratic flag, because I do agree that there is enormous alienation from government in many places in the country, a feeling that the government does nothing right and therefore that there may be a need for a celebrity to appeal to the magical thinking crowd that seems to influence elections ala the Governor of California.

  15. It's too far away from 2008 for this to mean much of anything, other than that there's a very anti-politician mood in the country right now; anybody who's familiar is disliked by a lot of people.

  16. The numbers are probably useless. They imply (or at least assume) that the opponent is an unimportant variable. What if Jeb Bush ran against HRC? The results above indicate no one would vote. The truth is most of our presidential elections produce 2 candidats no one really likes and become a lesser of 2 evils choice such as 2004.

  17. This can be too heavily a function of name recognition. You could ask people "Would you definitely vote against Mark Kleiman?" and the results might look pretty good, since the most common response will be "Who?" If you then asked whether people would vote for him, it wouldn't look so good. All the names listed here are pretty well known; but if you start getting into Warner, Clark, or even Obama, it doesn't tell you too much.

  18. The numbers indicate it's June of 2006 and there's no presidential primaries until 2008.

  19. Americans have an extremely short term memory, so it's hard to project voter outcomes using any numbers culled from data more than maybe two weeks before an election (much less two years).
    That said, I think that the Republicans are going to lose big on illegal immigration to an independent candidate, perhaps Tancredo. It's not that voters will remember so much as the debate will persist.

  20. Bottom line, they're lousy polls. You *could* design a poll to tell you something useful, in fact such polls almost certainly are being run. But those aren't the ones that get released in this fashion, the results of THOSE polls are generally kept close to the vest.
    That's something to remember: Polsters aren't nearly as incompetent as publicly released polls would suggest. It's just that there are polls for gathering information, and polls for influencing opinion, and we generally see the latter.

  21. I am reminded of when I was the brand director for Starbucks. We had 300 or so stores and wanted to expand. The market research said with absolute certainty that over 90% of those surveyed (in the 000s) would NEVER pay more than $2 for a cup of coffee. $3 was beyond laughable.
    Polls and market studies evaluate what people think they think. But if it were that easy products would always succeed, entrepeneurs would never stand a chance, and of course the Dems would always win.

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