The non-Nader factor: Back in May of this year, Politizine put together an extensive state by state polling analysis countering claims by Democratic front groups attacking the 2004 candidacy of Ralph Nader ["Anti-Nader study falls flat"]. What the analysis showed was that these groups were using flawed data – national preference polling – to come to the conclusion that Nader was harming Sen. John Kerry’s presidential effort. However, by examining individual state polls, those that determine the election of the president, Nader has little to no impact on the race. The analysis also showed that registered Democrats supporting the reelection of President George W. Bush were potentially a bigger problem for Kerry.
Six weeks and many more state polls later, the conclusion remains the same: Nader has little to no impact on Kerry’s campaign. In some polls, Nader actually helps Kerry gain better position against Bush.
Between Jan. 1 and July 9, 209 polls from 43 states of have been conducted. In most states, because of the demographics, the presidential race is essentially over.
In polls taken from Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah, Kerry loses with or without Nader in the polls [Note: The polls from North Carolina were held before Sen. John Edwards was chosen to be Kerry’s running mate]. Nader has not been included in polls taken from Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia [Note: The only poll from Virginia by Rasmussen Reports was within the margin of error but historically, this has been a safe Republican state]. There have been no polls taken in Alaska, Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wyoming, but all the states are considered to be safe Bush states. Winning these states will award 207 Electoral College votes to Bush.
In almost all the polls taken from California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, Kerry wins the state with or without Nader on the ballot. [Note: In one poll Fairleigh Dickinson from New Jersey in early April, Nader's appearance in the poll shifted the state from Kerry to Bush. However, countering this anomaly are six other polls showing Kerry with leads in an otherwise safe Democratic state]. There have been no polls in Delaware, the District of Columbia, and Hawaii, safe Kerry states. Winning these states will award 200 Electoral College votes to Kerry.
Nader’s positive impact
In some states, Nader’s candidacy has a positive influence on Kerry’s poll positions despite the relentless attacks against the independent candidate.
In a June 5-8 Los Angeles Times poll in Ohio, Nader takes more votes from Bush than Kerry, by a three-to-one ratio. It is enough Bush votes to help Kerry win the state by a wider margin than without Nader included in the poll. Without Nader: Kerry 46, Bush 45. With Nader: Kerry 45, Bush 42.
In a March 25-29 Keystone Poll from Pennsylvania Nader earned more Republican than Democrat votes by a 4-to-3 margin.
In a March 22-23 West Virginia ARG poll Nader’s appearance in the poll helped improve Kerry’s position in the state. Nader lures enough registered Democrat voters who planned to vote for Bush – a two-to-one margin – to help Kerry tie Bush in the state. With Nader: 46-46. Without Nader: Bush 47, Kerry 46. In this poll, Bush received a massive 22 percent of the registered Democrat vote.
In a March 15-18 ARG New Hampshire poll Nader garnered the support of 9 percent of Republicans compared to 4 percent of Democrats, a more than two-to-one margin and virtual repeat of what occurred in 2000, with Bush leading in the state with or without Nader [According to CNN exit polls, Nader received 2 percent of the Republican vote and 1 percent of the Democrat vote in 2000. Check out Debunking the Myth for more data on the 2000 results: ["Debunking the Myth"] ].
In 16 other polls from Ohio, New Hampshire, and West Virginia, Kerry and Bush switch off leads with no Nader impact.
Where Nader could be a factor
In 12 of 209 state polls – or 5.7 percent of all state polling done so far in the campaign - Nader could potentially be a factor. However, other data within these polls reveal bigger problems for Kerry than Nader’s candidacy.
In Florida there have been 13 polls, with leads flipping back and forth between Bush and Kerry. Kerry has taken slight leads in recent polls. In most, polling agencies have included two versions: One with and one without Nader. In three polls, Nader’s appearance cancels out a Kerry lead – but does not deliver a Bush win, a literal replay of 2000.
In a June 23-27 Quinnipiac University poll, Kerry posted a 46 to 44 lead. But with Nader in the poll, the numbers shift to a 43-43 tie, with 5 percent for Nader.
An American Research Group [ARG] poll from May 15-17 shows Bush leading 47-46, with Nader receiving 3 percent. Without Nader, the results are 47-47.
An ARG poll from April 18-20 showed similar results: Bush with 46, Kerry at 45, and Nader again receiving 3 percent. Without Nader, the results were 46-46.
But by looking deeper into the Florida polls, problems that have nothing to do with Nader arise.
In the Quinnipiac poll, five times as many Democrats plan to vote for Bush than Nader. Nader’s candidacy also cuts into Bush’s Democrat vote totals, dropping from 12 percent in a two-way race to 10 percent in a three-way race. In the May ARG poll, Bush receives more than three times the Democrat vote that Nader does: 11 to 3 percent. In the June ARG poll showing a Kerry lead, Bush receives 11 times the Democrat vote as Nader, 11 to 1 percent. In that poll, Nader received 1 percent of the Republican vote, earning equally from both sides.
This is a repeat of 2000 when a tiny percentage of Democrats, 1 percent, voted for Nader but many more voted for Bush: 13 percent and a virtual tie in the state.
Sixteen Michigan polls show similar results as Florida, with back and forth leads, regardless of whether Nader is included or not. Most polls have Kerry in the lead in the state. However, in two of those polls, Nader’s appearance on the ballot hypothetically delivers the state to Bush.
In a FoxNews/Opinion Dynamics June 22-23 poll, Kerry has a 44-43 lead. But when Nader is included, the poll flips to a Bush 44-42 lead.
In a Detroit News June 24-28 poll, Bush received 44 to Kerry’s 43 with Nader getting 5 percent.
However, neither of these polls released more specific data from the poll like voter registration designation or data without Nader included in the polling, so no assumption can be made about whether Nader voters would automatically go to Kerry.
But in an ARG poll from July 9, which showed a Kerry lead [50-43-2], Nader earned equally from Republicans and Democrats: 1 percent, while Bush took 7 percent of the Democrat vote.
New Mexico is one place where Nader’s candidacy could be a factor.
In a March 30-April 1 ARG poll, Bush had 46 to Kerry’s 45, with Nader getting 3 percent of the vote. Without Nader, the results would again be a tie: 47-47.
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 – and not Nader – are keeping Kerry from potentially winning the state.
In a more recent ARG poll from the state, released on July 9, Kerry had the lead, 49 to 42, with Nader earning 3 percent. Kerry’s lead is secure despite 13 percent of Democrats voting for Bush and 3 percent voting for Nader.
In Oregon, there have been eight polls with two showing Nader potentially influencing the outcome.
In a May 3-5 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. In this poll, 6 percent of Democrats were planning on voting for Bush, with 7 percent voting for Nader.
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.
However, four other polls from Oregon showed Kerry beating Bush even with Nader on the ballot. And two other polls – one in March and one in May – showed Bush beating Kerry in Oregon with no Nader candidacy at all.
In Pennsylvania, there have been 15 polls taken, with Bush and Kerry in a tug of war. However, only two polls show any Nader impact.
A March 9-15 Quinnipiac poll showed Bush with 44, Kerry at 40, and Nader with 7 percent. 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.
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 Democrat 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.
In Wisconsin, there have been eight polls with two showing potential Nader impact.
In one, a June 3-8 Los Angeles Times poll, Bush and Kerry are tied 44-44. But when Nader is thrown into the mix, Kerry loses 2 percent, with Bush leading 44 to 42.
In another poll, conducted by the University of Wisconsin Survey Center, Bush leads 46 to Kerry’s 42 with Nader getting 5 percent.
Like the Michigan polls, these did not offer a "without Nader" option or any specific registration data, so no impact can be properly vetted. The UWSC poll did state that 90 percent of Republicans were backing Bush and 85 percent of Democrats were voting for Kerry. Kerry led among independent voters but no numbers were given. In two other polls from Wisconsin, Bush led Kerry with no impact by Nader, similar to results from Oregon.
There are four months until Election Day but the conclusion is clear: Nader is a non-factor at this point in the presidential race. Registered Democrats voting for Bush potentially could cost Kerry the presidency. As well, Green Party candidate David Cobb, who is on 23 ballot lines and has changed his mind about a "safe-state" approach, is more of a potential threat to Kerry than Nader who is only on 10 ballot lines. Lastly, as of July 9, Kerry had an Electoral College lead over Bush: 286 to 252, with other Web sites which track EC votes showing higher numbers for Kerry. In other words, at this point in the campaign, Kerry would win the presidency with or without Nader in the race.