Zogby has successfully predicted past presidential elections with near pinpoint accuracy; so when he talks, people listen.John Zogby, one of America’s most respected and accomplished pollsters, spoke to members of the Valve Manufacturers Association at its 70th Annual Meeting in Tucson, AZ.
Zogby said this is probably the most important election of our lifetimes. Thanks to Barack Obama, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton, “we will never again question an African American or a woman running for election.” But he says there are 5 main factors that will ultimately determine the outcome:
- Major Discontent – President Bush’s 21% approval rating is the lowest of any President (these polls go as far back as Truman), and Congress is even worse at 10%. Also, 80% think that things are heading in the wrong direction—an unprecedented number. Even during Watergate, that figure didn’t exceed 60%.
- Return to the Center – The reasons most elections haven’t been close historically is because people in the ideological center tend to all go either one way or the other. This was not the case in the hyper-partisan atmosphere of 2004, but that could be changing.
- Katrina – As big an event as this was, John Zogby thinks people might be underestimating its impact. Following Katrina a lot of people basically lost faith in government and its leaders. Zogby called this the biggest government debacle since the Depression—and now “we have a financial crisis on top of that!”
- Beltway Culture – People’s impression of Congress is almost always low, but due to gerrymandering and doing favors for local voters (who generally like their representatives), 90% of incumbents still win re-election. Washington has historically been a place where Democrats and Republicans had friends on both sides of the aisle, but that’s not really the case anymore.
- Change – Numbers 1-4 are the reasons both Obama and McCain are running on the “change” mantra. There’s going to be a lot of first-time voters this year who will head to the polls with high expectations.
Zogby said McCain’s problem is that no blue states appear to be in danger of going red. That essentially has him in the position of having to playing defense. Zogby also thinks that the so-called Bradley Effect* is a non-factor. If he were to give Sen. McCain some advice, it would be to fire his staff.
Despite all this, does that mean it’s a done deal for Sen. Obama? Not entirely, says Zogby. While Obama reminds him of JFK in many aspects, he says that McCain could channel Pres. Truman. The infamous ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’ headline was a testament to the “angry” Truman who came back from the political dead in 1948.
* The Bradley Effect is the belief that white voters tell pollsters they’re voting for the black candidate, when they really aren’t. It references Thomas Bradley, an African-American candidate for California Governor in 1982 who lost despite being up in the polls. Many experts dismiss this as an isolated event that had more to do with his opponent’s superior Election Day strategy than anything else.
Judy Tibbsis editor of Valve Magazine and Chris Guy is assistant editor.