Two Data Points on the Election

by Marc Hedlund

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There's an excellent poll tracking site, Electoral Vote Predictor 2004, to which friends of widely varying political beliefs have referred me. It is great to see a site like this aggregating and analyzing information from all the pollsters. Since many media outlets sponsor their own polls, they often don't take this approach. Good job, Internet!

As a Kerry supporter, I noticed two interesting things in the poll results:

  1. Many of my friends who support Bush say that the key issue for them is terrorism, and which candidate can best address it as a threat to the nation. It's interesting to me that the three locations attacked on 9/11 (New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania) are all supporting Kerry. D.C., which has had an incredible onslaught of horrific, terrorist or terrifying events over the past four years (the Pentagon attack, anthrax and contamination of Senate offices, the sniper shootings), is far and away the strongest region supporting Kerry, with 78% in his favor. The people who have been most directly threatened by terrorism are voting for John Kerry.

  2. As many others have noted, it's astonishing how closely this year's poll results mirror those from the 2000 election. See, for instance, this CNN article from October of 2000. George W. Bush has, I imagine we all would agree, been one of the most forceful presidents in recent years, pushing his agenda and advancing the causes in which he believes. Certainly that resoluteness did not come through during the 2000 campaign -- if anything, Bush seemed uninformed about international affairs, not driven by them. While I personally disagree with his goals, it is notable how aggressively he and his administration have pursued them. Given that, I find it astonishing that after four years, the net gain of support for Bush is 0. Wouldn't you think that a leader who sets clear goals and persuades or coerces opponents to support them would gain at least the respect of people who appreciate that character of leadership?

    Consider the parallel of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. His election over Green Party candidate Matt Gonzalez was nearly as narrow as Bush's over Gore. Yet by pursuing marriage rights for gay Americans, Newsom has won over a huge number of former Gonzalez supporters: his approval rating went from 62% at the election to 85% this summer. Why hasn't the same happened for Bush? Bush's approval rating went up after 9/11, but has spiked much more on external events than on the "forceful" actions he has chosen to take.

Of course polls are a mirror as much as a projection. I see in them what I hope for next Tuesday, that John Kerry will be elected. You might well see something else. I'm glad, though, to have a resource to help see through the typical news headlines.