[Paleopsych] American Demographics: Bush vs. Kerry: What Influences Swing Voters?
checker at panix.com
Sat Aug 14 02:08:27 UTC 2004
Bush vs. Kerry: What Influences Swing Voters?
http://demographics.com/ar/bush_vs_kerry/index.htm [q.v. for graphic that
give a lot of information not shown in the article]
American Demographics, 4.8.9
[Amazing news that 11% of Republicans would switch to Kerry (and another
9% switch to a third-party candidate or not vote) if Kerry endorsed
stem-cell research. There's an NYT piece from July 22, "Kerry Vows to Lift
Bush Limits on Stem-Cell Research." The American Demographics article is
August 8, and presumably reflects polling done before that announcement.
I'm not sure what the latest Gallup polls show, since I've been largely
sitting out this campaign, but surely the changes are nothing like 11
[The graphic, but not the article, says that, if "proof emerges that Kerry
lied about his record in Vietnam, about 8% of Democrats would switch to
Bush (hard to tell from the graphic) and 28% (exactly, that is to the
nearest percentage point) switch to Bush, switch to a third party
candidate, or not vote. This is not altogether helpful, since claims of
"proof" of his lying and rebuttals of same have been around for some time.
[It's certainly a great innovation to ask voters what would make them
switch, but it seems that what they will actually do is muted. The
election remains a toss-up. This election is as insignificant as the
knock-down battle between James A. Garfield and Winfield S. Hancock in
1880, where Garfield won the popular vote by only 7000. It was without
doubt seen at the time as crucial, but today Hancock is a forgotten man.
There are some speculations in soc.history.what-if, but mostly about what
might have happened if Tilden had won the Presidency in 1876. Go to
http://groups.google.com and search for <"winfield s. hancock" 1880>. Your
ever faithful Premise Checker is among the articles. I'll send it along
for your general entertainment. And I append something by an earlier
commentator on the American scene after the American Demographics article.
[The electorate seems much more divided than it actually is, thanks to
computers refining the art of gerrymandering, which makes for safe seats
and which turns the primaries to the crucial battlegrounds. And this means
that the candidate in a safe seat appeals to the median of his party
rather than to the median of the electorate. In addition, politics has
joined the entertainment industry, as Tom Wolfe saw so long ago in "The
Politics of Pleasure," in which he noted that, for all the problems of the
Viet Nam war and civil rights, the voters of California elected a movie
actor as governor. And so I saw a table full of books at Borders, partisan
book after partisan book after partisan book, each more indignant than all
"What ifs" could cause declared pro Bush and pro Kerry voters to
switch sides on Election Day, new American Demographics-Zogby
International survey finds.
In late June, all the buzz in Washington was about the week-long
funeral of Ronald Reagan and how much of a "bounce" the Reagan
connection could give President George W. Bush's re-election bid.
Ironically, however, the Reagan "bounce" might just help the other guy
-- Democratic Sen. John Kerry.
The president could lose his hold on up to 20 percent of the people
who say they'd vote for him thanks to an issue that gained momentum in
the weeks following former President Reagan's death. According to a
new poll done exclusively for American Demographics by Zogby
International, if Kerry were to announce a major initiative in stem
cell research to cure diseases such as Alzheimer's, which killed
Reagan, Parkinson's, diabetes and spinal injuries, Kerry would gain a
whopping 11 percent of Bush's voters. What's more, another 9 percent
of Bush supporters say they'd switch to a third party, not vote, or be
"This is the 'sleeper issue' of this campaign," says Bob Beckel, a
former Democratic presidential candidate strategist. "It's more than
just stem cell research--it's the symbolism of announcing a plan to
eradicate major diseases, and part of the Baby Boomers' health care
crisis." There is a growing public desire for the government to do
more to cure diseases that have put the Baby Boomer generation in a
squeeze, parenting their own parents while raising children, and
struggling to pay for and get health insurance. "In polling, a switch
to the competition is a two-fer. So, a switch of 11 percent directly
from Bush to Kerry is a total change of 22 percent," Beckel says. In
an election where most polls show a dead heat, so significant a change
could swing the results.
"Politically and scientifically, it's a home run for Kerry to call for
stem cell science initiatives," says Howard Fineman, Newsweek's
veteran political commentator, "Americans had a crash course in what
Alzheimer's does to everyone involved, during the week of Reagan's
funeral," Fineman adds, noting that magazines such as Newsweek, sell
out on the stands whenever there's a health issue cover.
The poll was fairly unique in election surveys. Zogby asked over 1,000
potential voters to choose between Bush and Kerry, and then asked
those who made a decision, what it would take to change their votes. A
total of 912 respondents who picked either Bush or Kerry, with a
slight margin for Kerry over Bush, were presented with five possible
scenarios that could plausibly occur prior to the election on November
2. The "what ifs" included issues such as the economy, jobs and the
war in Iraq; a stem cell research plan; Bush dumping Cheney; and a
wild card: the impact of Bill Clinton on the hustings.
"It's a dream poll for political strategists," Beckel says. "Asking
people what would get them off their mark."
"This is a very interesting poll, as it touches on so many 'what ifs,'
says John McCaslin, columnist for The Washington Times. The author of
the upcoming book Inside the Beltway, McCaslin says, "Washington
political columnists don't normally see this in presidential polling."
"If the presidential race is as close as the pollsters are telling us,
a point or two shift to either side could sway the election." McCaslin
says. A Kerry move on stem cell cures "might not be far off, given the
interest surrounding Ron Reagan's much-heralded appearance at the
Democratic National Convention," he concludes.
Several political pros interviewed are shocked by the strength of the
answers in stem cell research. Norman Ornstein, TV commentary and
longtime political author says, "Their results were interesting and
surprising. If you asked me what's likely to move voters, I would have
said unemployment would move a large number of voters, but not many
people said they would switch."
The stem cell response "certainly suggests on the GOP side that Bush
has to worry about some tension within the party that is not so
socially conservative," says Ornstein. "It strongly suggests that
there are GOP moderates looking for a leader. Therefore, Kerry could
capitalize on this issue."
But of course, Kerry can't use this issue to mobilize voters unless he
personally takes a proactive position on the very disease that caused
Reagan's tragic demise. Kerry, known as Mr. Cautious, has to be
prodded to take a tough stand on anything, including hunger in
America. He has a chance here, says Ornstein, "but he has to do
something with it."
Meanwhile, John Zogby, himself, has been asked by Republicans what
Bush might do to keep moderates happy, and Zogby has found that stem
cell research is a surprisingly attractive issue. Zogby says that
while Kerry mulls it over, he should worry that Bush will wake up,
suddenly embrace Nancy Reagan publicly and warm to her cause.
The stem cell cure initiative wasn't the only unusual finding. One
might have expected that a drop in unemployment would boost Bush;
however, he only directly gained five percent, which includes a margin
of error of 3 percent. "That is because Bush never 'owned' the economy
as an issue, the way Reagan did," explains Beckel. He should know;
Beckel ran 189 campaigns, and only failed in five, but one of them was
the Titanic Walter Mondale loss to incumbent Ronald Reagan. "Because
Bush hasn't made the economy his issue, as this poll shows, he won't
get credit for improvements he might make," Beckel opines.
On the other hand, "Bush has taken ownership of terrorism and Iraq,"
says Beckel. They are Bush's issues to lose.
But James Taylor, author of The Visionary's Handbook and a former
consultant at Yankelovich marketing research, sees Kerry as vulnerable
in this poll. "This poll shows that Kerry is at whims of fate and
Bush," says Taylor. "If you look at Bush's numbers, his are a lot
tighter. Bush has a much more bullet-proof political base than Kerry.
"I'm fascinated that Bush has a sure victory coming out of Kerry's
pocket if either Iraq pulls together, or if McCain or someone replaces
Cheney, or frankly, in the event of there's a terrorist attack here,"
Taylor says. "All those issues have some degree of probability, such
as Iraq showing signs of real governance. Those three all are Kerry
killers. If they all happened, Kerry could lose by 12 percent.
"Bush's only real risk is that Kerry gets organized around a real
national health plan with stem call research on disease, or if Bush
loses control of inflation," Taylor says of the poll results. He also
thinks Baby Boomers are being given too much credit here for caring
about health care and their aging parents. "They want to live forever,
and they don't wanna live 'old.' Stem cell research offers chances to
reverse the aging process."
What happens if Bush dumps Vice President Dick Cheney for John McCain,
we asked declared Bush and Kerry supporters. Bad news for Kerry: he
loses 8 percent directly to Bush, and another 9 percent to the
wilderness of "not sure" and "3rd party."
"That Cheney is a real drag on the ticket is significant," Taylor
says. He can foresee Cheney announcing that his health problems have
intervened. Bonnie Erbe, host of PBS's To The Contrary, said she could
see Bush dumping Cheney at the last minute.
Overall, Erbe said, "What's going on out there with voters is that
Bush has energized the left, and there's so much hate. Kerry is not
the draw, but the lesser of two evils. Bush's position on stem cell
research can be used as an example of Bush caving into evangelicals,
even against the most conservative members of his own party, i.e. Sen.
Orrin Hatch and Ronald Reagan's widow." Kerry should use this opening
Beckel says Kerry should do it in a big way, announce the "new
frontier" for America, as John F. Kennedy did, but instead of going to
the moon, say "we're going to the laboratories." "It's a pro-life
position," Beckel says, which Kerry can pound on.
William Frey of the Brookings Institution notes that this poll shows,
"It may be time for Kerry to push the panic button and do something
bold, take a stand. Yes, a failing economy could hurt Bush, but a
better strategy for Kerry here is 'let's not wait, let's do something
bold.' This poll says that there's some payoff in that for Kerry."
Like Taylor, Frey believes that without some proactive move, Kerry's
fate rests too much on forces beyond his control. "A change by Bush in
his vice president sends Kerry voters over to Bush, and real stability
in Iraq sends them to Bush, so Kerry is at the mercy of these things,"
Bush definitely gains votes from Kerry in the event of another
terrorist attack on US soil. An analyst who asked not to be quoted
says this may be a reason that Homeland Security leaders mention new,
nebulous threats every time Kerry gets momentum. Political science
professor Steffen Schmidt, host of the Iowa radio show Dr. Politics
says that "After the 9-11 commission report, I cannot imagine that
fear of terrorism and the question of who can best deal with
terrorists is not the number one concern of voters."
One democratic analyst, who asked not be identified, says that if
there were another terrorist attack here, democrats could argue that
terrorism is Bush's issue; Bush has been in charge and he failed to
make America safe.
But Taylor disagrees. "Anything dramatic in the war in Iraq or
terrorism may redound to Bush," says Taylor, "then you get the 'don't
change horses in mid-stream' syndrome. Even if there's a full-scale
civil war in Iraq in September, it will focus the attention on the
war, and people get distracted. So anything besides this slow-burning
failure redounds to Bush's favor."
There were other surprises in the poll: First, Bush's support among
Catholics, whom he is courting, is not that strong. And Bush, who is
also wooing Hispanics aggressively, did not profit from a scenario in
which he might announce looser visa/immigration restrictions on
Mexicans and Central Americans.
As for The Return of the King--Bill Clinton-- to the spotlight, our
analysts say: "Watch out." Although 50 percent of all respondents said
it would not affect them, Clinton's appearance could cost Kerry 6
percent of his voters to Bush. Clinton helps Kerry among African
Americans, and may increase their turnout; and helps Kerry among 25-
to 34-year-olds. But Clinton also ensures that at least 25 percent of
Bush voters dig in; he hurts Kerry among "east coast" voters, and
kills Kerry support among the "Investor Class," of whom 29 percent say
they would be much more likely to vote for Bush if Clinton popped up.
"This poll tells us two things," says Ornstein, "Clinton remains a
polarizing figure, but he also remains a consequential figure."
Schmidt says the poll suggests "Al Gore was right; Clinton is not at
all a win-win asset."
Clinton has to be used "very carefully," says Frey. "Clinton does
polarize the electorate even further. Republicans are much more likely
to vote for Bush if Clinton comes in, but he doesn't help as much with
Democrats, except strong partisans and African Americans.
"That means the Democrats have to strategically target where they use
Clinton," Frey adds.
Several analysts suggested changes in the poll scenarios: that the
question on Bush dropping Cheney as vice president should not have
mentioned McCain, since that is unlikely in light of Bush's dislike of
McCain. They also say we should have asked voters "what happens if we
capture Osama Bin Laden?" And, instead of positing a civil war in
Iraq, which is what we already have, we should have asked: what if an
attack killed 100 or more Americans in a single day? And we should
have developed a sub-group of veterans, to go with ethnic, income and
However, this poll is significant for finding the "soft" declared
voters for each candidate, say Beckel, Frey and Ornstein.
"It's hard to change votes, it's admitting to failure," says Beckel.
"That's why political consultants wish they could do more polls like
this. You don't get many changes, but what you get signals hot button
issues and dissatisfaction with a candidate in general, voters looking
for an excuse to vote against him.
"That's what the campaign strategists need to know. "
All the while I have been forgetting the third of my
reasons for remaining so faithful a citizen of the
Federation, despite all the lascivious inducements from
expatriates to follow them beyond the seas, and all the
surly suggestions from patriots that I succumb. It is
the reason which grows out of my mediaeval but
unashamed taste for the bizarre and indelicate, my
congenital weakness for comedy of the grosser
varieties. The United States, to my eye, is
incomparably the greatest show on earth. It is a show
which avoids diligently all the kinds of clowning which
tire me most quickly -- for example, royal ceremonials,
the tedious hocus-pocus of haut politique, the taking
of politics seriously -- and lays chief stress upon the
kinds which delight me unceasingly -- for example, the
ribald combats of demagogues, the exquisitely ingenious
operations of master rogues, the pursuit of witches and
heretics, the desperate struggles of inferior men to
claw their way into Heaven. We have clowns in constant
practice among us who are as far above the clowns of
any other great state as a Jack Dempsey is above a
paralytic -- and not a few dozen or score of them, but
whole droves and herds. Human enterprises which, in all
other Christian countries, are resigned despairingly to
an incurable dullness -- things that seem devoid of
exhilirating amusement, by their very nature -- are
here lifted to such vast heights of buffoonery that
contemplating them strains the midriff almost to
breaking. I cite an example: the worship of God.
Everywhere else on earth it is carried on in a solemn
and dispiriting manner; in England, of course, the
bishops are obscene, but the average man seldom gets a
fair chance to laugh at them and enjoy them. Now come
home. Here we not only have bishops who are enormously
more obscene than even the most gifted of the English
bishops; we have also a huge force of lesser
specialists in ecclesiastical mountebankery -- tin-horn
Loyolas, Savonarolas and Xaviers of a hundred fantastic
rites, each performing untiringly and each full of a
grotesque and illimitable whimsicality. Every American
town, however small, has one of its own: a holy clerk
with so fine a talent for introducing the arts of jazz
into the salvation of the damned that his performance
takes on all the gaudiness of a four-ring circus, and
the bald announcement that he will raid Hell on such
and such a night is enough to empty all the town blind-
pigs and bordellos and pack his sanctuary to the doors.
And to aid him and inspire him there are travelling
experts to whom he stands in the relation of a wart to
the Matterhorn -- stupendous masters of theological
imbecility, contrivers of doctrines utterly
preposterous, heirs to the Joseph Smith, Mother Eddy
and John Alexander Dowie tradition -- Bryan, Sunday,
and their like. These are the eminences of the American
Sacred College. I delight in them. Their proceedings
make me a happier American.
Turn, now, to politics. Consider, for example, a
campaign for the Presidency. Would it be possible to
imagine anything more uproariously idiotic -- a
deafening, nerve-wracking battle to the death between
Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Harlequin and Sganarelle,
Gobbo and Dr. Cook -- the unspeakable, with fearful
snorts, gradually swallowing the inconceivable? I defy
any one to match it elsewhere on this earth. In other
lands, at worst, there are at least intelligible
issues, coherent ideas, salient personalities. Somebody
says something, and somebody replies. But what did
Harding say in 1920, and what did Cox reply? Who was
Harding, anyhow, and who was Cox? Here, having
perfected democracy, we lift the whole combat to
symbolism, to transcendentalism, to metaphysics. Here
we load a pair of palpably tin cannon with blank
cartridges charged with talcum power, and so let fly.
Here one may howl over the show without any uneasy
reminder that it is serious, and that some one may be
hurt. I hold that this elevation of politics to the
plane of undiluted comedy is peculiarly American, that
no-where else on this disreputable ball has the art of
the sham-battle been developed to such fineness...
... Here politics is purged of all menace, all sinister
quality, all genuine significance, and stuffed with
such gorgeous humors, such inordinate farce that one
comes to the end of a campaign with one's ribs loose,
and ready for "King Lear," or a hanging, or a course of
But feeling better for the laugh. Ridi si sapis, said
Martial. Mirth is necessary to wisdom, to comfort,
above all to happiness. Well, here is the land of
mirth, as Germany is the land of metaphysics and France
is the land of fornication. Here the buffoonery never
stops. What could be more delightful than the endless
struggle of the Puritan to make the joy of the minority
unlawful and impossible? The effort is itself a greater
joy to one standing on the side-lines than any or all
of the carnal joys it combats. Always, when I
contemplate an uplifter at his hopeless business, I
recall a scene in an old- time burlesque show,
witnessed for hire in my days as a dramatic critic. A
chorus girl executed a fall upon the stage, and Rudolph
Krausemeyer, the Swiss comdeian, rushed to her aid. As
he stooped painfully to succor her, Irving Rabinovitz,
the Zionist comedian, fetched him a fearful clout
across the cofferdam with a slap-stick. So the
uplifter, the soul-saver, the Americanizer, striving to
make the Republic fit for Y.M.C.A. secretaries. He is
the eternal American, ever moved by the best of
intentions, ever running a la Krausemeyer to the rescue
of virtue, and ever getting his pantaloons fanned by
the Devil. I am naturally sinful, and such spectacles
caress me. If the slap-stick were a sash-weight, the
show would be cruel, and I'd probably complain to the
Polizei. As it is, I know that the uplifter is not
really hurt, but simply shocked. The blow, in fact,
does him good, for it helps get him into Heaven, as
exegetes prove from Matthew v, 11: Hereux serez-vous,
lorsqu'on vous outragera, qu'on vous persecutera, and
so on. As for me, it makes me a more contented man, and
hence a better citizen. One man prefers the Republic
because it pays better wages than Bulgaria. Another
because it has laws to keep him sober and his daughter
chaste. Another because the Woolworth Building is
higher than the cathedral at Chartres. Another because,
living here, he can read the New York Evening Journal.
Another because there is a warrant out for him
somewhere else. Me, I like it because it amuses me to
my taste. I never get tired of the show. It is worth
every cent it costs.
That cost, it seems to me is very moderate. Taxes in
the United States are not actually high. I figure, for
example, that my private share of the expense of
maintaining the Hon. Mr. Harding in the White House
this year will work out to less than 80 cents. Try to
think of better sport for the money: in New York it has
been estimated that it costs $8 to get comfortably
tight, and $17.50, on an average, to pinch a girl's
arm. The United States Senate will cost me perhaps $11
for the year, but against that expense set the
subscription price of the Congressional Record, about
$15, which, as a journalist, I receive for nothing. For
$4 less than nothing I am thus entertained as Solomon
never was by his hooch dancers. Col. George Brinton
McClellan Harvey costs me but 25 cents a year; I get
Nicholas Murray Butler free. Finally, there is young
Teddy Roosevelt, the naval expert. Teddy costs me, as I
work it out, about 11 cents a year, or less than a cent
a month. More, he entertains me doubly for the money,
first as a naval expert, and secondly as a walking
attentat upon democracy, a devastating proof that there
is nothing, after all, in that superstition. We
Americans subscribe to the doctrine of human equality -
- and the Rooseveltii reduce it to an absurdity as
brilliantly as the sons of Veit Bach. Where is your
equal opportunity now? Here in this Eden of clowns,
with the highest rewards of clowning theoretically open
to every poor boy -- here in the very citadel of
democracy we found and cherish a clown dynasty!
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