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An Inside Look at Campaign 2008

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An in-depth view of the electorate by Douglas Schoen

An in-depth view of the electorate by Douglas Schoen

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  • 1. An Inside Look at Campaign 2008 An in-depth view of the electorate By Douglas Schoen July 2008
  • 2. Overview
    • This poll is designed to provide an in-depth examination of the public’s opinions on the 2008 presidential election.
  • 3. Overview
    • As I did last year, this poll seeks to look deeper than traditional political polls and provide a detailed analysis of how the American people view the upcoming election and the two major party nominees.
    • Moreover, I am providing an analysis of how the campaigns and their strategists would look at this poll. By doing so, I am providing a different perspective than you would get ordinarily.
  • 4. Overview
    • The data I am presenting was collected last weekend specifically for the Aspen Institute Idea’s Festival, and aims to present a balanced view of the presidential race.
    • The poll was conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC, an independent public opinion research firm using the automated polling methodology and procedures licensed from Rasmussen Reports, LLC.
  • 5. Overview
    • The poll was conducted with a representative sample of the national electorate with 1,500 interviews between June 28 th and June 29 th .
    • The margin of sampling error for the poll is +/-3% overall and larger for subgroups.
  • 6. Key Conclusions
  • 7. Key Conclusions
    • Democratic nominee Barack Obama has a slight but clear lead over Republican nominee John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.
    • Obama’s support and the support for the Democratic Party lies in the unambiguous desire for change and fresh leadership for the country.
  • 8. Key Conclusions
    • Support for Obama lies less in support for his specific policies than it does in the general desire for change as well as the desire to move in a different direction from President Bush.
    • The economy remains a sleeper issue, as the data shows that the two candidates are actually tied in the perception of how they will handle the most important problem facing the country.
  • 9. Key Conclusions
    • While Obama leads on every social issue, how economic leadership is contested will have a decisive impact on the result of the election.
    • McCain’s support is derived from confidence in his foreign policy experience and personal background. This will remain a central theme of his campaign and is the bedrock of his support.
  • 10. Key Conclusions
    • But to win, McCain needs to go beyond foreign policy and capture the economic issue, particularly by winning support from those who believe Obama lacks experience and will raise taxes.
    • McCain must link this negative Obama theme with his own strong, economic reform message in order to distance himself from Bush and have hiss own distinctive domestic agenda.
  • 11. Key Conclusions
    • Obama and McCain have similar favorabilities, yet it is the preference for a Democratic president that now gives Obama a slight lead.
    • McCain has yet to challenge the premises behind the Obama candidacy, and is allowing him to consolidate support in ways that give him a slight but clear advantage, the survey shows, because of the electorate’s desire for change.
  • 12. Key Conclusions
    • Defining change and what it means is the key to victory for both McCain and Obama.
    • Specifically, the poll is very clear in suggesting that because of the desire for change, Republicans can only win if they make the case that Obama and/or his policies are unacceptable and will take the country in the wrong direction.
  • 13. Key Conclusions
    • Obama has had success with his values campaign this past week.
    • An examination of the data shows that Wesley Clark’s remarks, however blunt and infelicitous they may have been, serve a larger, strategic purpose for Obama in undermining McCain.
  • 14. Summary of Thematic Conclusions
    • McCain themes:
      • John McCain: Strong and Experience Leadership for a Secure Future
      • Barack Obama: Experience America Can’t Afford
    • Obama themes:
      • Barack Obama: New and Fresh Ideas for the Change America Needs
      • John McCain: a Third Term for President Bush. We must Reject the Politics of the Past
  • 15. Key Findings
  • 16. Key Findings
    • John McCain and Barack Obama have about the same favorability ratings.
    • 53% of Americans view McCain very or somewhat favorably while 46% view him very or somewhat unfavorably.
  • 17. Key Findings
    • 54% of voters have a very or somewhat favorable impression of Obama, while 44% of voters have a very or somewhat unfavorable impression of him.
  • 18. Key Findings
    • Despite these similar ratings, voters have a strong preference for a Democrat in the White House in 2009. 51% of voters prefer a Democrat to 35% who prefer a Republican.
  • 19. Key Findings
    • There are two strong reasons that drive the desire for a Democrat to be in the White House:
    • - 31% prefer a Democrat because it’s time for a change in leadership in the White House.
    • - 29% say the Democratic Party is best suited to tackle the pressing issues facing out country like health care, the economy and global warming.
  • 20. Key Findings
    • The reasons for having a Republican in the White House are more complicated:
    • - 21% want a Republican in the White House because they think the Democratic Party’s tax policies will hurt our faltering economy.
    • - 20% of voters believe a Republican will keep our country safe and protect our borders.
    • - 19% say that Barack Obama is inexperienced, naïve and out of touch with most Americans.
  • 21. Key Findings
    • Two out of the top three reasons for a Republican president are based on a dislike for the Democrats and their policies.
    • Thus, the Republicans cannot win without running a campaign that undermines the credibility of Obama and his message.
  • 22. The Horserace
    • When asked who they would vote for if the presidential election were held today, 47% of voters said Obama and 42% of voters said McCain.
  • 23. The Horserace
    • Neither McCain nor Obama have a gender gap in their supporters.
  • 24. The Horserace
    • Obama’s support is much greater than McCain’s among younger voters, but he lacks support among older voters.
    • Obama should develop policies that reach out to senior citizens.
  • 25. The Horserace
    • Obama is 3 points behind McCain among voters who have kids at home, but 7 points ahead among those with no kids at home.
      • Obama should focus on family-oriented policies or reach out to this demographic.
  • 26. The Horserace
    • Voters who support McCain cite his foreign policy experience, his desire to keep taxes low and to cut government waste.
    10% McCain has the strongest foreign policy credentials and will lead us in fighting the war on terror and the war on Iraq. 14% McCain will keep taxes low and cut government waste in this time of economic recession. 32% McCain has the experience and foreign policy expertise to lead our country.
  • 27. The Horserace
    • Voters who support Obama cite that he will bring change, fresh leadership and bipartisanship to the country.
    11% Obama has the wisdom, intelligence and judgment to lead our country. 13% Obama will create plans that stimulate the economy, create jobs and provide health care to all Americans. 14% Obama will change the ineffective government by working in a bipartisan manner to create real solutions. 38% Obama will bring change, fresh leadership and new ideas to this country.
  • 28. Key Findings
    • One-third of voters believe McCain is too conservative, while another third believe that he is where he should be in terms of ideology.
  • 29. Key Findings
    • 41% of voters believe Obama is too liberal while 46% believe he is where he should be.
      • Voters think that Obama is more liberal than McCain is conservative.
  • 30. Issues Facing our Country
    • Economy is the top issue and the polls suggest an extraordinary opportunity for McCain, given that Obama and he are virtually tied on management of the economy.
  • 31. Issues
    • Voters believe that Barack Obama would do a better job at facing most social and domestic issues than John McCain.
  • 32. Issues
    • Obama leads on all of the domestic issues except the economy, where he trails McCain by one point.
    • This is the most important issue facing the country.
  • 33. Issues 40% 44% Government ethics and corruption 37% 47% Environment 37% 47% Social Security 32% 52% Education 34% 54% Healthcare McCain Obama Issue
  • 34. Issues
    • Voters also believe Obama will do a better job facing the war in Iraq, supporting the already expressed desire for change.
  • 35. Issues
    • Voters believe McCain will do a better job of facing national security and foreign policy issues.
    41% 44% Immigration 40% 52% The War on Terror Obama McCain Issue
  • 36. Phrases
    • We then read voters a series of phrases and asked voters to tell us if the phrase applies more to Barack Obama or John McCain.
  • 37. Phrases
    • Voters think McCain understands America’s foreign policy problems, has the right kind of experience to be president and is a strong leader.
    41% 42% Strong leader 31% 54% Right kind of experience to be president 30% 56% Understands America’s foreign policy problems Obama McCain Trait
  • 38. Phrases
    • Voters think Obama is in touch with the electorate and understands America’s domestic problems, but have doubts about some of the people he has associated with in the past.
    37% 45% Understands our domestic problems 27% 50% Have doubts about some people he has associated with in the past 30% 53% In touch with the American electorate McCain Obama Trait
  • 39. Positive and Negative Arguments
  • 40. Arguments Supporting Obama
    • We read voters a series of statements in support of Barack Obama and asked if they were very convincing, somewhat convincing, not very convincing or not at all convincing reasons to support Obama.
  • 41. Arguments Supporting Obama
    • Mirroring what we saw before, the most convincing reasons to support Obama are that he will bring fresh leadership and ideas to the economy, end America’s isolation from the world, reach out to world leaders and develop alternative energy sources.
    44% 54% Obama will end America’s isolation from the world and reach out to world leaders. 43% 53% Obama has a plan to develop alternative sources of energy and to reduce gas prices. 36% 59% Obama brings fresh leadership and ideas to get our economy moving, create new jobs and to provide health care for everyone who needs it. Not convincing Convincing Argument
  • 42. Arguments Supporting Obama
    • Fighting terror, unifying America and ending the war in Iraq were less convincing reasons to support Obama.
    53% 45% Obama has a real plan to get us out of Iraq within 16 months of taking office. He will put our resources to work here where they are needed to alleviate the economic crisis we are facing. 52% 46% Obama can unify America and create bipartisan consensus in a way that will bring us together. 47% 49% Obama has a practical plan to fight terror and maintain our strength around the world. Not convincing Convincing Arguments
  • 43. Horserace
    • After hearing these arguments, we asked again who voters support for president in 2008. Obama’s lead increased over McCain to six points.
  • 44. Arguments for Opposing Obama
    • Next, we read voters a list statements in opposition to Barack Obama. We asked if they were very convincing, somewhat convincing, not very convincing or not at all convincing reasons to oppose Obama.
  • 45. Arguments for Opposing Obama
    • The most convincing arguments against Obama were his support for the labor unions and tax increases, his former ties, and claims that he is an elitist who is out of with hardworking Americans.
    51% 45% Obama is too much of a liberal elitist to understand the hardworking Americans’ problems. He’s out of touch with the way people live and what they need to succeed. 52% 45% Obama is too close to Reverend Wright and other anti-American figures. I have doubts about whether I can trust him as president. 47% 47% Obama oppose frees trade and supports labor unions beholden to special interests. He supports large tax increases. Not convincing Convincing Arguments
  • 46. Arguments for Opposing Obama
    • Lacking experience, supporting social programs that will raise taxes, and talking to leaders from rogue nations were less convincing reasons to oppose Obama.
    51% 38% Obama wants to talk to world leaders from rogue nations like North Korea, Iran and Venezuela that sponsor terrorism. Doing this will put us at risk and demonstrates his inexperience. 52% 46% Obama’s support for social programs will increase the deficit and force the government to have massive tax increases across the board. 54% 42% Obama is too young and inexperienced to be president. He is not ready to serve on day one. Not convincing Convincing Arguments
  • 47. Horserace
    • After hearing these negative arguments, Obama’s lead decreased to three points.
  • 48. Arguments Supporting McCain
    • Next, we read voters statements in support of John McCain and asked if they were very convincing, somewhat convincing, not very convincing or not at all convincing reasons to support McCain.
  • 49. Arguments Supporting McCain
    • The strongest reasons to support McCain are because of his war hero qualifications, his status as a reformer who will cut spending, and because he is trusted to lead the U.S. in Iraq.
    42% 55% McCain is a strong leader who can lead us in Iraq and make sure that when we withdrawal, it enhances security and promotes U.S. interests. 42% 56% McCain is a reformer and fierce crusader against government waste. He’ll cut government and pork barrel spending and eliminate earmarks. 41% 58% McCain is a war hero who understands the problems facing the U.S. He is uniquely qualified to fight terror and will keep us safe and secure. Not convincing Convincing Arguments
  • 50. Arguments Supporting McCain
    • Less convincing reasons to support McCain were that he won’t talk to leaders of rogue nations, that he is a fiscal conservative and that he is a maverick with fresh ideas.
    50% 46% McCain is a centrist and a true maverick with fresh ideas. He has programs to create bipartisan consensus on issues like global warming and developing alternative energy sources. 48% 50% McCain is a fiscal conservative who will hold taxes and avoid the massive increases Democrats support. 46% 50% McCain will never talk to leaders of rogue nations who support terrorism. You know that with McCain, we will have a secure and strong America. Not convincing Convincing Arguments
  • 51. Horserace
    • After reading these arguments, McCain erased Obama’s lead and was in a tie with him for president.
  • 52. Arguments for Opposing McCain
    • Next, we read voters a list statements in opposition to John McCain. We asked if they were very convincing, somewhat convincing, not very convincing or not at all convincing reasons to oppose McCain.
  • 53. Arguments for Opposing McCain
    • The most convincing arguments to oppose McCain were that he wants to continue Bush’s tax cuts, that he is willing to stay in Iraq for 100 years, and that he will represent a third term of President Bush.
    49% 47% McCain will continue most of the president’s policies and will represent a 3 rd term of a failed and discredited President Bush. 49% 47% McCain said doesn’t care how long we stay in Iraq and we could stay 100 years. He is out of touch. 45% 52% McCain wants to continue President Bush’s tax cuts and other domestic policies which have led to a recession. He has no programs to hold down gas prices or alleviate the problems of homeowners. Not convincing Convincing Arguments
  • 54. Arguments for Opposing McCain
    • Less convincing reasons to oppose McCain were that he doesn’t represent enough change from Bush, that voters can’t relate to his values and that he is too old to be President.
    60% 38% McCain is too old to be President give the pressing domestic and international challenges we face. 54% 43% McCain’s personality, values and goals are not ones I’m comfortable with. He represents the past. 51% 46% Our country is on the wrong track and needs changes to overcome our domestic and international problems. McCain will not represent enough change from this administration to get the job done. Not convincing Convincing Arguments
  • 55. Horserace
    • After hearing these arguments, we asked voters one final time who they support for President.
    • Obama leads by one point, 45 to 44.
  • 56. In Conclusion…
    • The Democrats have a strong message of change.
    • The Republicans have a national security/leadership message that they need to drive and combine it with a negative message on Obama’s inexperience and his economic ideas.
  • 57. In Conclusion…
    • The challenge for Obama is to flesh out his agenda and reassure people about his past ties, through the values-oriented message he has been articulating.
    • Obama needs to make the case that McCain represents failed policies of the past and will bring no change, just more of the same.
  • 58. In Conclusion…
    • The challenge for McCain is to question those ties, question Obama’s agenda and make the case that Obama’s lack of experience is something we can not afford.
    • McCain needs to make the case that Obama has an agenda that will hurt, not help America, while emphasizing his reformist, fiscally conservative agenda that will keep America strong.
  • 59. In Conclusion…
    • McCain has an extraordinary opportunity to turn his experience into his advantage and to run on the doubts people have about Obama and his associations, doubts Obama has addressed this week with his values campaign.

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