[Marxism] LA Times poll and Nader's support

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Wed Jun 25 15:33:24 MDT 2008


There's a new poll out that from Bloomberg and the LA Times that gives
Obama a 12-point lead against McCain in a 2-person race, and a 15
point lead when those polled are offered a choice of other candidates
-- and thereby hangs a tale.

In the first presidential choice question, no other candidates are
mentioned. When Nader and (libertairan former Georgia Congressman) Bob
Barr are added, Obama's support drops 1%, McCain's 4%, with most of
McCain's drop going to ... Nader.

This is, of course, a good rejoinder to those who say Nader is running
a spoiler campaign aimed at undermining Obama's chances. In fact, he
seems to be drawing more support away from McCain. Cross tabs on the
poll confirm that this is the case -- Nader's strongest support is
among self-described conservatives, with 7% (he scores 4% overall),
and that despite being described in the question as the green party
candidate.

The difference is quite striking -- Nader gets 6% of those saying they
would vote for McCain in the 2-way race, but only 2% of Obama's
voters. Those are percentages of each candidate's vote in the 2-way
race question of the poll, not a percent of all the respondents
overall. In terms of the overall universe, those voting for Obama and
then Nader are 1%, and those for McCain and then Nader 2.4%.

And although rounding errors make this a very rough calculation, it
appears that of the 4% that in the first, two-way race said they would
vote for another (unnamed) candidate, Bob Barr appears to have gotten
half about of those, and for Nader very few. That's because in the
4-way race, there are still 2% for another unnamed candidate.

For those unfamiliar with statistical theory as it applies to these
sorts of polls, while it is true that a poll of this size (1100 and
change) has a sampling margin of error of 3%, that is a worst-case
scenario for a 50-50 split on the poll. Expressed as a percent of the
overall poll results, for single-digit percents like those we're
talking about, the margin of error is smaller. (Or looked at more
scientifically, as a percent of a given result, the margin or error
grows: it is 6% of a given side's total result in a 50-50 split; but
for, say, a 10% result, the margin of error might be, say, 20% of that
number, but that is only +/-2% in terms of the overall poll). Which is
to say that the difference in Nader's appeal to McCain  voters as
opposed to Obama voters can't be dismissed as statistical "noise" but
is quite likely real.

The finding is also consistent with the overall poll results. One
thing that is quite strikingly revealed is not just the difference in
support between McCain and Obama, but the difference in the intensity
of their support. Obama has much higher numbers of self-described very
enthusiastic and enthusiastic backers, McCain has a much larger
self-described unenthusiastic voter base, for example.

But this does in my mind raise questions about the political dynamics
of Nader's campaign this year, in a framework where one of the major
party candidates is Black and has (for good or ill) evoked very strong
identification from Blacks, young people and progressive-minded people
in general, and the other a leftover discard from several previous
Republican nomination contests who not so much defeated his opponents
as was simply the last one left after all the rest had proved to be
unviable as candidates.
As I've mentioned before, I think in politics --and perhaps especially
of a people as uncultured as the US population-- things like tone and
stance and image are very important. Who you are --or rather are
perceived to be-- was the REAL difference between Obama and Clinton as
well as between McCain and the other pygmies. But what do these poll
results tell us about how Nader is perceived?

I know there has long been an element of this in the Nader base, a
quasi populist, traditionalist layer of white voters who view or think
of themselves as "conservatives," akin to the "feudal socialists" of
Marx's time who critiqued capitalism from the point of view of the
smallholder, household industry and so on. But it seems this might
"weigh" more this year, as the Republicans have an especially
unattractive candidate in McCain and the Democrats quite the opposite.
And a vigorous McKinney campaign would accentuate this.

Just to be clear, I'm NOT suggesting Nader is adapting to this wing of
his voters, at least not in any different way than some might argue he
did four or eight years ago. I've not followed his campaign closely,
but from everything I've seen, it seems identical in message to those
of years past.

Joaquin




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