SPECIAL REPORT: Anti-Nader study falls flat
Deeper analysis shows registered Democrats voting for Bush a larger threat than Nader; massive Kerry lead
A press release sent out last week by DontVoteRalph.net claiming Ralph Nader’s independent candidacy is impacting John Kerry’s presidential campaign in a negative way is founded on flawed analysis of national preference polls. It also ignores the fact that Kerry’s inability to hold registered Democrats in certain swing states has a more detrimental effect on his campaign than Nader does. Studying individual state polls reveals that Nader has negative, neutral and positive impacts on the Kerry campaign, with Kerry currently beating Bush by anywhere from 136 to 116 Electoral College votes – the votes that actually determine who becomes the president.
In the study, located at http://www.dontvoteralph.net/pollwatch.htm, the group performed a Google.com news search on May 13 and consulted the PollingReport.com site, eventually finding 37 national polls taken since Nader announced his candidacy. In their news release of May 26, 32 of those polls showed "that Nader directly helps Bush." Four reportedly showed no impact and one by FoxNews showed a 1 percent tilt towards Kerry.
"This study shreds the assertion by the Nader campaign that they will help beat Bush," stated John Pearce, Executive Director of Progressive Unity, in the press release. "Facts are facts, and these findings are overwhelming: Nader is directly helping Bush."
But is Nader really helping Bush? Are these the "facts"?
Faulty use of national polls
The first flaw of DontVoteRalph.net’s analysis is the use of national preference polls to determine the outcome of the presidential election. National polls are meaningless in electing the president. The president is elected by prevailing in each individual state and winning every state’s Electoral College votes. Whether Nader is earning 1, 2, 5 or whatever percent of the support in a national preference poll is pointless because the result has no bearing on the individual state voting. Since DontVoteRalph.net didn't analyze state polling data thoroughly, there is not one shred of proof that Nader "costs" Kerry anything.
The second flaw in this analysis of the national preference poll is the perception that somehow every single voter supporting Nader would automatically go to Kerry if Nader were not running for president. This is a completely false assumption. In 2000 – when Nader garnered a large section of left-leaning voters – only 45 percent said they would have voted for the Democratic nominee Al Gore had Nader not been in the race, according to the Voter News Service, the most extensive national polling consortium. Twenty-seven percent of Nader voters would have gone to Republican George W. Bush and the rest said they would not have voted at all. So, if less than half of Nader voters in 2000 would vote for the Democrat, why would anyone assume that 100 percent would vote for Kerry four years later? DontVoteRalph.net foolishly forwards this assumption in its analysis. As we have all heard time and time again, most liberal, progressive, and Democrat voters are taking an "anybody but Bush" stance. Kerry has already gained tens of thousands of Nader's 2000 votes and is in a better position to beat Bush than Gore was. There are still stubborn Nader supporters out there and there are thousands of Green-Rainbow and Socialists party members who will probably support their nominees. These voters aren't planning to vote for Kerry under any circumstances. So the Nader candidacy doesn’t help Bush or "cost" Kerry anything.
Individual state polls
On their site, DontVoteRalph.net states they did look at some state polls and they claim "the results were even more striking … show[ing] Nader flipping New Jersey and Pennsylvania from Kerry to Bush, and causing an 8% surge for Bush among the large Arab-American vote in four critical swing states." But is it really "striking" or "helping Bush"? Maybe; maybe not. David Wissing of The Hedgehog Report [http://www.davidwissing.com/bushkerrystate2004.html] is one of a handful of netizens who has been tracking state polling data for over six months. Unlike other Web sites that track polls, Wissing posts the Nader numbers – and the outcome without Nader – when available. The site has 59 polls in which Nader was included from 30 different states. In over 50 of those polls, Nader had no influence on the outcome, with other polls showing negative, neutral, or positive results for the Kerry campaign.
Nader: Negative, neutral, positive
In analyzing all the individual state data, Nader’s campaign does have some bearing on Kerry’s position in a few states.
On the negative side, in at least three states that Gore won in 2000, Nader could potentially influence the outcome of the election.
In a Fairleigh Dickinson April 3-10 poll in New Jersey, the results were Bush 48, Kerry 44, and Nader 5. But without Nader, Kerry benefits with 48 percent and Bush gets 47. However, countering this are four other polls from New Jersey done after the Fairleigh Dickinson poll which show Kerry beating Bush with or without Nader on the ballot.
In Oregon, a state Gore barely won in 2000, two polls show Nader potentially influencing the outcome. In a May 3-5 American Research Group [ARG] poll, Bush and Kerry were tied at 45, with Nader clocking in with 5 percent. Without Nader, the result would be Kerry 48, Bush 46. A Rasmussen Reports poll released on April 25 showed Bush and Kerry tied with 43 and Nader receiving 8 percent. Without Nader, Kerry received 46 with Bush getting 45, and 6 percent said they would vote for "some other candidate." So even with only two choices, the bulk of Nader’s support inflexibly stayed with their candidate. This polling data shines light on the mistaken premise that Nader’s candidacy "costs" Kerry the election. Again, many of Nader's supporters are not going to vote for Kerry under any circumstances so he gains nothing from a two-candidate race. Like in New Jersey, three other polls from Oregon showed Kerry beating Bush even with Nader on the ballot. But two recent polls - one in March and one in May - showed Bush beating Kerry in Oregon with no Nader candidacy at all. Again, more evidence that shows a potential loss for Kerry, without Nader, in the state.
Lastly, in Pennsylvania, a March 9-15 Quinnipiac poll showed Bush with 44, Kerry at 40, and Nader with 7 percent. However, without Nader, Kerry takes the lead with 45 to Bush's 44 percent. In the polling data, Nader earned the support of 4 percent of registered Republicans and 6 percent registered Democrats. Democrats supporting Bush came in at 14 percent.
However, another Pennsylvania poll shows Nader taking more Republican than Democrat votes by a 4 to 3 margin. In an April 16-25 Pew Charitable Trusts poll, Bush and Kerry were tied with 42 percent. Nader received 5 percent. The poll did not ask voters how they would vote if Nader were not on the ballot. Yet in this poll, Bush received 12 percent of the vote from registered Democrats – four times as many Democratic votes as Nader received. Another 10 percent of Democrats were undecided or supporting other candidates. So a full 22 percent of Democrats in Pennsylvania were supporting Bush, another candidate other than Nader, or were undecided, while only 3 percent were supporting Nader. Again, the Democratic base voting for Bush or another candidate costs Kerry the state. Kerry and Bush have been in a tug-of-war for the lead in other Pennsylvania polls, with most recent ones showing Kerry leading even with Nader on the ballot.
On the neutral side, recent polls from Florida show a replay of 2000 with essentially a tied race. An ARG poll from May 15-17 shows Bush leading 47 to Kerry’s 46 and Nader with 3. Without Nader, the results are a tie: Bush 47, Kerry 47. So while Nader "costs" Kerry 1 percent of the vote in this poll, the addition of Nader doesn’t guarantee a Kerry win in the state. An ARG poll from April 18-20 showed similar results: Bush at 46, Kerry with 45, and Nader in at 3. But without Nader, the results are again a tie: Bush 47, Kerry 47. So there is still no Kerry win in the state without Nader but some affect. However, look at some of the data buried in the May poll: Nader received 3 percent of registered Democrats [1 percent of the Republican vote] while Bush gets 11 percent of registered Democrats. This is almost a repeat of 2000 when 1 percent of Democrats voted for Nader and 13 percent voted for Bush, swinging the election to Bush. Clearly, in Florida, the Democratic nominee’s inability to hold his own base is more of a detriment to his candidacy than Nader.
In New Mexico, another state Gore barely won in 2000, the Nader candidacy has mixed results. In a March 30-April 1 ARG poll, Bush had 46, Kerry had 45, and Nader came in with 3 percent. Without Nader, the results would again be a tie, with Bush and Kerry getting 47 percent. However, Nader took equally from both registered Republicans and Democrats, 2 percent, while Bush received a whopping 20 percent of registered Democrats in the state – a 10 to 1 margin over Nader. Again, in this poll, registered Democrats – not Nader – are keeping Kerry from winning in New Mexico by voting for Bush.
On the positive side, in at least one poll from Ohio, Nader takes enough Republican votes to help Kerry win the state. In a late-March poll from West Virginia, Nader takes more Democrat votes by a two-to-one margin but the results affect Bush’s position in the state, not Kerry's. In that poll, Bush received a massive 22 percent of the Democrat vote. In many other states, Nader takes almost equally from both major party candidates, without changing the state outcomes. In a New Hampshire poll released in March by ARG, Nader garnered the support of 9 percent of Republicans compared to 4 percent of Democrats, a two to one margin and virtual repeat of what occurred in 2000, with Bush leading in the state with or without Nader.
Kerry's Electoral College vote lead
Different Web sites tracking state by state polls and compiling possible Electoral College results show Kerry with huge leads over Bush even with Nader in the race. Election Projection [http://www.electionprojection.com/elections2004.html] has the race at Kerry 337, Bush 201. Samboni1342, another Web site posting numbers, now has it Kerry 327, Bush 211 [http://www.geocities.com/samboni1342/state_polls.htm]. On Saturday, May 29, Wissing posted Kerry 289, Bush 249 results on his site, listed above. However, on Sunday, his results had shifted to Bush 296, Kerry 248 with new polls showing Bush leads in Ohio and other states but no Nader effect.
Conclusion: The anti-Nader site analysis is flawed
After looking at all the polling analysis that is available to date, there is no definitive evidence that shows Nader harming Kerry in any way. There is the potential for Nader to harm Kerry if the Democrat follows a similar path that Gore followed in 2000 and loses his clear lead at this point in the election. As well, the selection of a conservative or free trade vice presidential candidate by Kerry could alienate potential support for his cause and shift votes to Nader, similar to the support which shifted from Gore after his selection of Sen. Joseph Lieberman for the VP spot. However, the deeper data in some of the state polls goes to the heart of what Nader has stated in his 2004 campaign – and goes against statements and analysis forwarded by DontVoteRalph.net. In some swing states, Nader is taking more votes from registered Republicans than Democrats. In many others, Kerry's inability to keep the Democratic base from casting votes for Bush will cost him the election just as these voters cost Gore the election in 2000. A Kerry loss would be more a result of failing to keep his base from fleeing to Bush than Nader.
In the future, anti-Nader sites like DontVoteRalph.net should ignore national preference polling and perform a more expansive and accurate analysis of state polls before coming to suspect conclusions like they did on May 26. They should also spend less time attempting to deny the Constitutional rights of Nader to run for office and those people who want a third choice in 2004.
Kerry supporters should also spend more time trying to get Kerry elected and encouraging the candidate to pick a populist, fair trader for the vice presidential nomination, in order to earn the votes of Nader supporters instead of trying to scare them with flawed, baseless analysis.