On One Hand

December 8, 2007

Rating the Candidates on the Issues

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 3:29 pm
Tags: , ,

On MSNBC.com, an interactive poll allows viewers to rank politicians on a green-through-red scale based on their agreement with each candidate’s position on specific issues.

My own ratings put me in strongest agreement with Dennis Kucinich, followed by John Edwards, Joe Biden, Chuck Dodd and Barack Obama. I had strongest disagreement with Tom Tancredo and Fred Thompson. I disagreed with Hillary Clinton the most out of all Democrats, and agreed with Rudy Giulianni most out of all Republicans.

National averages of all votes cast on MSNBC.com paint a strongly different picture. Ron Paul had the most green in his column, with slight favorability on every single issue, and Hillary Clinton had the most red. Barack Obama was the most winning Democratic candidate, while Duncan Hunter was the most losing Republican.

But a closer look at the candidates shows that, even when candidates are broken down to the issues, the candidate’s overall image counts more than anything else. Candidates with similar positions on some issues still earned drastically different votes; Barack Obama’s immigration policy was virtually identical to Hillary Clinton’s, though Obama received a neutral rating on immigration while Hillary’s was the most loathed category on the map. In fact, wherever Clinton’s views matched another candidate on either side of the aisle, Clinton’s ratings on that view were far worse. Ron Paul’s anti-immigration stance questioned the citizenship even of those born on United States territory, while Tom Tancredo’s similarly strong-handed approach earned far more opposition, with only slight favorability overall. This indicates that most people who took the poll probably voted without actually reading the candidates’ positions or had little prior knowledge of them.

The Democrats won most when it came to energy policy, showing strong favorability towards environmentalism among the electorate. Republicans won most on immigration, though they also showed a high degree of polarization; though immigration views could turn many blue-collar Democrats or moderates to the Republicans, some analysts consider immigration a losing issue for Republicans because the Hispanic vote will judge candidates based on this issue more than any other.

My ratings (click to view):

Average ratings (click to view):

Does this give us reason to worry about Clinton’s electability? I say no, because the polling sample is so small and drew heavily upon superficial judgments about the candidates. America’s current love affair with Ron Paul, for example, is based on the fact that he is a fresh, unknown, anti-war Republican, not on actual agreement with most of his views. A quick poll of college students who are both socially and economically liberal but still love Ron Paul (in spite of his views on healthcare, the environment, and abortion) can show that to be the case. And in spite of Clinton’s awful ratings in this survey, telephone polls show her winning when matched against virtually any Republican.

This does, however, indicated that Barack Obama might be a more formidable candidate than Hillary Clinton. Though more people say America is “ready for” a black president than those who say it is “ready for” a female president (a sneaky way for pollsters to get the truth about racist or sexist views, since most people will lie about their personal reluctance to vote for someone based on race or religion), I’m still worried about the racism that will inevitably spring up as the election draws near. The fact that most voters are women helps counter sexism in America. Barack Obama does not have a similar advantage as the first serious black candidate.

This poll does make me more reluctant to vote for Hillary because her stance is so weak on the issues I care about the most. On health care, she promises to solve problems by “the end of her second term,” but we are not voting for Hillary’s second term, we are voting for her first term. On energy, she is a moderate at best, and would probably fall to the Right of most individual Americans on environmental issues.

Dennis Kucinich is considered by media to be a quack-job from the far-left, but my feeling is that most liberal Americans place him no farther on the left than conservative Americans placed Bush on the Right. The country as a whole certainly likes him better than they like Hillary Clinton. If it weren’t for worries about electability, most Democrats would prefer Kucinich based on issues alone. He represents an untapped portion of the American public that hasn’t quite coalesced around an identity or found a voice in politics, but could become more influential in the future. My feeling is that most Kucinich supporters are just as happy to tip for Obama, and if Obama wins the Democratic primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire, this group of people are going to begin to move.

My advice to any Democratic candidate would be to play up environmental issues; the nation is in virtual agreement on that, and Democrats probably care about the environment just as much if not more than they care about the war. Healthcare, though contentious, might also be an advantage; though many are virulently opposed to socialized health, they are also more than nervous about its rising costs, and would probably support a single-payer program over, say, dying of cancer.



  1. I don’t think the fact that half our voters are women counteracts sexism at all, unfortunately. There’s a hell of a lot of sexist women out there who wouldn’t vote for a female candidate. Internalized prejudice is a bitch… Also, I don’t think many non-chauvinist women will vote for a woman just on the virtue of her sex. The Dems will vote for her because she’s a Dem; the Independents, very likely, won’t vote for her because she’s a Clinton.

    I wish I could vote for Clinton with a good conscience, because I’d love to have a woman president, but I dislike her policies.

    Comment by erinya — December 8, 2007 @ 11:18 pm | Reply

  2. politics confuse me 😦 i have no idea how i will ever make my decision come presidential elections…

    Comment by culive2ride — December 10, 2007 @ 1:12 pm | Reply

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