Kerry Wins, Sez Most Polls

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Fwiw, over at Google News, the current wrap-up of headlines regarding last night's polls, suggests that more viewers thought Kerry did a better job last night.

A Reuters/Zogby poll, taken just before the debate, has Bush up one point, 46 to 45, over Kerry. Story here. Regardless of the exact number, it seems that whatever daylight that Bush opened up after the GOP convention seems to have gone gently into that good night. And that we'll be in for another very tight presidential race.

And, quite possibly, the fourth straight race in which the winner doesn't get a clear majority of the popular vote. That's unprecedented, at least in recent history. I'm not quite what the significance of it is, though I suspect that it suggests that for all the talk of "polarization" among the electorate, we actually are in an age of massive consensus about the role and scope of government (which, to my mind, is bad, given the size of the government).

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  1. I agree that there’s no ‘massive polarization’. People are arguing on the margins, barely touching the most trivial issues on which these two candidates have a teeny bit of daylight between tham, and acting like they are life and death issues. Perhaps that’s why people are so polarized, that they realize these issues aren’t that important, and that with the two major candidates, there’s almost no distance between their positions. For every question brought up, Kerry seemingly has an answer of ‘I’ll do what he did, but only better and different’. Campaign rhetoric? Somewhat, but I think that there really isn’t that much difference. So in response to this, perhaps people magnify these differences, overinflating their importance to compensate for the lack of tangible difference in policy.

    Or it could just be that the media puts out the most shrill voices to get ratings, and then use those folks as their gauge for the volume of disagreement, if not the actual differences.

  2. I think its a mix of two things. The intense debate is mostly over control: who gets to control all this government we have, how much money and decision-making is shifted to individuals and how much stays in the hands of politicians and gov’t bureaucracies. If either party wins decisively they influence where alot of money is directed, who sits on the SCOTUS.

  3. With only 67.5% of registered voters turning out in 2000, and only 51.3% of the total voting age population turning out, I doubt that “consensus” is a word we can really use. If a candidate takes 50% of the vote, we are still only talking about 25% of the U.S.

    Not that we would be in better shape if more people turned out (probably not, actually), but I think it is likely that we are simply seeing the apathy that results in a strictly regulated “two-party” system. Only with Instant Runoff Voting or something similar that allows for more third-party involvement would we see more interest in what is currently just a single-party system with a thin veneer of democracy painted on it.

  4. “…how much money and decision-making is shifted to individuals and how much stays in the hands of politicians and gov’t bureaucracies.”

    Scratch “individuals”, insert “big corporations” and you got that right.

  5. Bush killed in the debate. Need proof? Josh Marshall says: “Bush did OK.”

  6. Bush killed in the debate. Need proof? Josh Marshall says: “Bush did OK.”

  7. The Bush “big lead” going in to the debate was a result of oversampled GOPers…Gallup with Bush up by 13? Give me a break, Reagan barely had a double digit poll lead on Mondale!!

    It makes an excellent “horserace” story to engineer a Kerry “comeback” with creative sampling when in reality the spread was always probably less than 3 points either way.

  8. With only 67.5% of registered voters turning out in 2000, and only 51.3% of the total voting age population turning out, I doubt that “consensus” is a word we can really use. If a candidate takes 50% of the vote, we are still only talking about 25% of the U.S.

    It seems just as likely to me that low voter turnout is further evidence of consensus: Half of America thinks they’ll basically live the same lives no matter who’s in power, so why bother voting.

  9. The gains Kerry made in the Iowa Electronic Market over the last couple of weeks probably indicate an overall stronger performance in the debates. The market now looks quite stunningly like the polls!

  10. Hans,

    The American system is designed to drive politics to the center. I count the non-voters as “don’t cares” under our system.

    We do have third parties and write ins for protest votes.

  11. Hans,

    If you want to understand why the two parties are little different from each other ask yourself:

    Why do Pepsi and RC Cola taste a lot like Coke?

    Short answer:

    because that is where the market is.

  12. snake,

    Do you have any evidence that the recent polls are using different sampling and weighting methods than the older ones that went more heavily for Bush?

  13. M. Simon
    So do most L/libertarians drink Dr. Pepper? This one does.

  14. Hans: “Only with Instant Runoff Voting or something similar that allows for more third-party involvement would we see more interest in what is currently just a single-party system with a thin veneer of democracy painted on it.”

    Great in theory, but I think that most people don’t even think there’s a problem with our fucked up biopoly

  15. US vs. THEM
    It appears to me that many have not progressed beyond simple tribalism. It doesn’t seem to matter that neither candidate diverges much from the muddle. What really matter is that “our side” wins. It’s projection similar to the way the audience participates in sports contests.

  16. Great in theory, but I think that most people don’t even think there’s a problem with our fucked up biopoly

    Duopoly, actually.

  17. Though the thread is probably dead, I would note, Nick, the series in the Austin-American Statesman that suggests that concensus is not building — rather, the country is actually polarizing county by county.

    http://www.statesman.com/specialreports/content/specialreports/greatdivide/index.html

    I suppose this might make you feel better.

    Anon

  18. The winner in the five presidential elections 1876 through 1892 had less that 50% of the vote. Interestingly, the LOSER in the 1876 (Samuel Tilden) had more than 50%.

  19. M. Simon,

    Your analogy is a little silly in light of the plethora of non-alcoholic drink choices available to us. The world ain’t Coke v. Pepsi anymore (if it ever was).

    syd,

    What’s interesting about that too is the fact that the Presidency as an institution weakened significantly over that period, and the states, and to some degree the Congress and the Federal Courts, took up the slack. Indeed, it is theorized that the reason why many Americans have a hard time remembering the Presidents between Van Buren and Buchanan (1838-1856) and the time period you mention is due to the weakness of the Presidency as an institution at the time.

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