Thursday, 4 December 2003

Perot versus Nader

Both Jane Galt and Steven Taylor ponder why Ralph Nader and Ross Perot elicit different reactions from “hard-core” partisans.

Interestingly enough, neither Nader nor Perot gained heavy support from self-identified strong partisans; the typical Nader voter wasn’t a hardcore Democrat, but rather a hardcore liberal with weak party identification—an important distinction to bear in mind. In a two-candidate race, the typical Nader voter would have been predisposed to favor Gore over Bush; however, that assumes he or she would have bothered to vote at all, something I’m not sure is the case. One other data point: more self-identified Democrats voted for Bush than for Nader.

The evidence that Perot cost George H.W. Bush the 1992 presidential election is very weak. If anything, Perot’s 1992 and 1996 candidacies hurt Democrats over the long term by costing Clinton the appearance of a mandate—bear in mind that Clinton didn’t receive more than 50% of the popular vote in either 1992 or 1996, thereby weakening his position.