Latest Poll Numbersposted by Christopher
If you're new to America, or new to democracy (I'm looking at you, Russian immigrants), let me explain how elections work. After all the candidates get done endless debating who amongst themselves hates terrorism more/is more concerned about the economy/is most generally swell, and after the pundits get done analyzing the color of the President's tie during his pre-mid-afternoon post-lunch press conference, and after you've seen every single piece of political advertising in the entire universe, every now and then somebody asks the voters what they think. (This is as opposed to Russia, where you don't actually vote in the election: the election votes in you.)
The latest poll numbers are in, and they represent a few distinct elements which merit discussing.
1. Bush still has a better approval rating than the Democratic Congress.
Bush's job approval is +33% (approval) / -60% (disapproval) overall, while Congress is +22% / -66%.
2. Obama has closed the gap but still trails.
Hillary leads 47% to 37% with 11% still undecided. However, Hillary really hasn't changed -- a year ago (January 2007) she was at 50%. Since then she has fluctuated between 38% and 50%, but never really breaking into majority support. This means she's probably crested as far as her support is going to go, which looks bad for her in a vacuum. It depends who she competes with in the general election.
3. McCain-Clinton are virtually tied. Anyone else loses to Clinton in a landslide.
Overall: McCain 45% Clinton 44%
Democrats: McCain 15% Clinton 79%
Republicans: McCain 86% Clinton 7%
Independents: McCain 42% Clinton 38%
That McCain wins independents is no small matter; he always does well among undecided, independent, and swing voters. It's the base he'll have trouble with. Think of an American election as having three parts: conservative base, moderates, and liberal base. You have to win two out of those three or you don't get elected. McCain wins moderates easily, but he's not connecting with the conservative base (e.g. me).
However, it's encouraging that McCain has more support among Republicans than Clinton does among Democrats.
Hillary beats Romney or any other Republican by at least 15 points. Barack is in a similar tie with McCain and similarly wipes out Romney or other Republicans by 15+.
This means that McCain will almost certainly be the Republicans' general election candidate, which I called at Iowa. (Albeit, not perfectly.)
4. The Republicans understand that McCain is their best choice. Democrats don't understand that Hillary is not theirs.
I would bet that in a multiverse where you can actually compare elections running separate candidates, Obama either beats or comes much closer to beating McCain than does Hillary. Hillary does not beat McCain.
Looking at the poll data, Republicans understand this: when asked who would have the best chance of beating a Democrat in November, Republicans, Democrats and Independents all answered McCain (by 66%, 49%, and 54% respectively). This puts him 40-50 points ahead of the next candidate (Romney).
But Democrats don't; as I noted at the outset, Hillary leads Obama 47%-37%. But when asked what candidate would have the best chance at winning against a Republican in November, respondents answered Obama. So, you know who would have the best chance to win, but that's not the person you support? What are you, a third-party voter?
Among all respondents, Obama beats Clinton 41%-34% in electability. But among Democrats, who are isolated in their liberal bubble and don't understand the "two-thirds of the pie necessary to win" argument I advanced earlier, believe Clinton really does have the best shot (49% to 37%). Independents disagree, and the independents will decide this election: they picked Obama by 20 points. Meanwhile Republicans, understanding that any Republican is weaker against Barack Obama than Hillary Clinton, said Obama is the more electable of the two.
5. Clinton is seen as most power-hungry.
This should come as no surprise.
"Which candidate do you think is more likely to do anything -- even something unethical -- to win the election?"
Clinton 44% Don't Know 28% Romney 11% McCain 9% Obama 8%
6. Clinton is seen as most likely to embarass the country.
Clinton 37% Don't Know 26% Romney 14% McCain 12% Obama 11%
7. Despite the preceding two questions, and vociferous attacks on each other, Clinton and Obama are both seen as more postive than the Republicans.
Who is most positive: Obama 36% Clinton 22% McCain 18% Don't Know 13% Romney 11%
8. Hillary's attacks on Obama are unfair; Obama's attacks on Hillary are legit.
"Do you think Hillary Clinton is making unfair attacks against Barack Obama?" Yes 44% No 42%
"...Barack Obama...against Hillary Clinton?" Yes 29% No 56%
9. This year's voting issues are different for different parties.
Democrats care about the war in Iraq (36%), the economy/jobs (32%), and health care (12%). No other issues registered above the 3% mark, including terrorism/national security, immigration, taxes, or the environment.
Republicans care about the economy/jobs (26%), terrorism/national security (20%), the war in Iraq (11%) and immigration (11%).
This is unique from recent past elections where, say, corruption in Congress and the war in Iraq manifested themselves as repudiations of the Republicans in 2006, or where the war and terrorism/national security were the dominant forces in 2004. This year is the first time we've seen people view their own social/economic conditions through the lens of partisan politics, as The Pew Research Center noted.
Disclaimer: The individuals polled self-identified as Democrat (42%), Republican (33%), Independent (20%) and Other (2%).