August 16, 2007

Gallup: Obama Won't Win Nomination By Appealing To Intellect

This has to be the headline of the political season. A Gallup Poll analysis shows Barack Obama heading for the rocks because of his narrow appeal to educated Democrats. The headline reads, "Obama's Appeal to Well-Educated Not Conducive to Winning Nomination," and Gallup warns that only one Democratic candidate has won the nomination in the past generation while winning that demographic:

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is a clear second place behind New York Sen. Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, but he is highly competitive with Clinton among the most educated segment of the party. That appeal may be one reason he has met or surpassed Clinton's fundraising totals despite not gaining much ground in voter support this year -- well-educated Americans tend to have greater income.

An analysis of historical Gallup Poll data on rank-and-file Democrats' nomination preferences shows that at least one candidate has exhibited a pattern similar to Obama's education skew in each election cycle since 1988, but that candidate usually does not end up winning the Democratic presidential nomination.

According to combined data from Gallup's national Democratic nomination trial heat polls conducted in July and August 2007, Obama's support rises from 19% among Democrats with a high school education or less, to 28% of those who attended college but did not finish, and 33% among college graduates.

By contrast, Clinton's support shows a downward trend by education level, as 51% of Democrats with a high school education or less, 45% of those with some college education, and 33% of college graduates support her. Thus, while Clinton leads Obama by 32 percentage points (51% to 19%) among Democrats with the least formal education, she merely ties him among the most educated Democrats.

The last candidate to win the nomination while grabbing this demographic was Michael Dukakis. Dukakis actually left the Democratic convention with a seventeen-point lead over George H. W. Bush, but blew it out of the water when he took a tank ride. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, only had 19% of college-educated Democrats supporting him at the beginning of the 1992 primaries, second to Jerry Brown -- who actually led for the nomination at that point. The 2000 primaries only involved Al Gore and Bill Bradley, and Al Gore led in all demographics, but was stronger among Democrats with lower educational levels. In 2004. Howard Dean had the college graduates locked up until his notorious Dean Scream sent them running for their psych textbooks.

What does this mean for Obama? He has access to fundraising outside of his actual proportion of support, which is not a bad development for him by any means. However, he needs to find a way to expand his support to those with less intellectual approaches. This might explain his attempts to sound rather stupid when discussing American military strategy in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the AP's Nedra Pickler ran to his rescue with a laughable "fact check" that neatly covered up what he and his campaign manager said, negating the entire campaign tactic.

Gallup takes care to assure Obama that appealing to educated Democrats "does not mean his candidacy is doomed," but that he would be a historical anomaly if he won. They offer the possibility that Bradley, Dean, Bob Kerrey, and Paul Simon all ran lackluster campaigns, but then ruin that glint of hope by saying that Dukakis was an exception. The analysis seems clear; Democrats win nominations by appealing to the less educated. Obama needs to dumb it down to compete with Hillary Clinton.


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Comments (19)

Posted by Gmax | August 16, 2007 10:38 AM

Maybe he is just angling for the stupid Democrat with a college degree demographic. You know the kind that read Glenn Greenwald and post "atta boy" messages on his blog, or are all of those sock puppets?

Posted by Lightwave | August 16, 2007 10:58 AM

You'll excuse the rather obvious jibe about "intelligent Democrat" being an oxymoron, but then again Obama hasn't figured out the obvious:

People vote their guts, not their minds. Elections are about character and strength of conviction. Other than Clinton's masterful job of faking it, the Dems haven't put up anyone who had half the character of Bush.

Posted by onlineanalyst | August 16, 2007 11:26 AM

It doesn't say much for "educated" Democrats if they are dazzled by Obama's vacuous rhetoric, however "articulate" it is.

Posted by arch | August 16, 2007 11:33 AM

An element of Obama's support is fear among red state democrats of Hillary's negatives. If Clinton gets the nomination, and I think she will, the new Blue Dog freshmen who joined the House in 2006 will go on the endangered species list. With Hillary on the ticket, conservatives will not stay home in 2008.

Obama's recent foreign policy statements have been stunningly stupid. In time of war, he wants us to attack the territory of a sovereign nation, Pakistan, who is not only an ally but also a nuclear power. Considering Mucharraf's present political vulnerability, his proposal was highly irresponsible. Barrack was not won any military support after accusing us of massacring civilians. The crown jewell was his idea to allow Russian and Chinese troops to occupy Iraq!

A month ago, I predicted that Hillary would move right, leaving all her democrat competitors pandering to MoveOn and Code Pink. Look for her to praise the positive work General Petraeus will report in September after others had urged immediate withdrawal. She will look hopeful, optimistic, mature, downright Presidential. If the surge works, she will take partial credit. If it fails, she will blame Bush.

Do not, however, believe her move to the center for a second. It's Classic Clinton triangulation.

All the democrats in the race want America to loose in Iraq in spite of the damage. A successful outcome - stability, progress toward an Iraqi political solution - would be viewed as a Bush victory.

Posted by Mwalimu Daudi | August 16, 2007 11:33 AM

Maybe if Obama would not talk down to those whom he considers inferior he would do better.

BTW: Just what makes a person an "intellectual", anyway? Is Gallup referring to the folks who argue (in total seriousness, apparently) that bombing Pakistan does not really count as invading Pakistan, or how we must pull out of fighting al Qaeda in Iraq to go fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan, or that it is US policy to bomb civilians (while presumably avoiding terrorists), or that genocide is no big deal? That is the sorts of stuff that only “intellectuals” could possible believe.

Posted by docjim505 | August 16, 2007 11:46 AM

New bumper sticker:

"Stupid People For Hillary!"

Well, the dems' icon IS a jackass...

Posted by Ray | August 16, 2007 11:57 AM

Obama, with the help of the MSM, is trying to portray himself as a black Ronald Reagan who just happens to be a democrat. That's why you keep hearing about his ability to articulate (Reagan was the Great Communicator) and his foreign policies and support for the military (Reagan was very strong on foreign policies and safeguarding America through the military) while he and the MSM downplays his liberal voting record and credentials. Obama isn't trying to win over liberals, he's trying to win over Reagan type (centrist) democrats (the same type of democrat that helped Reagan get elected twice). If he wins the party nomination, he will expand on the Black Ronald Regan theme in an attempt to win over Regan type republicans.

Posted by Scott | August 16, 2007 12:02 PM

As tempting as it is to comment on the intellectual capacity of the Dems, the headline captures it perfectly.

The Dems have traditionally appealed to labor, minorities, the poor, and so on. These are not the educated class. The strength of the Dems has always been populism, not logic.

And I'm not sure that an intellectual appeal works for any party. The issues that attract all of us, defense of the nation, fairness, family, faith, morality, appeal to our emotion. That's not necessarilty a bad thing.

Posted by Joe | August 16, 2007 12:18 PM

The sample size of smart Dem's is so small this poll can't be right

Posted by cv | August 16, 2007 12:36 PM

Obama the intellectual, that's a good one. I've listened to the boy from Punahou, and have not been impressed one bit.

Posted by Paul Milenkovic | August 16, 2007 12:42 PM

You heard it from me first. Hillary Clinton benefits from the Clinton Brand, and the comments about plantations and the lamely affected Southern accent are of no detriment. Hillary Clinton has a hammerlock on the traditional blue-collar, black, white-ethnic, working-class, union constituencies. Her vote on the war is of no consequence because outside of the white-college-liberal elites, that isn't even on the radar screen.

The pointy-heads with the Obama buttons are out of the loop on this one.

Posted by Jim T | August 16, 2007 2:31 PM

Democrats with "higher education" are also going to tend to be more (in)doctrinally liberal, plus are going to have drunk more of the "diversity" Kool-aid.

Obama benefits from both.

Posted by starfleet_dude | August 16, 2007 3:46 PM

In the second quarter at least, more of Obama's funds have come from donations under $200 than from those donating the maximum of $2,300:

Obama’s Camp Cultivates Crop in Small Donors

I'd also say that any politician who can run and win in Chicago is not somebody who relies on a strictly "intellectual" approach to campaigning. Just sayin'.

Posted by mrlynn | August 16, 2007 3:51 PM

Fer heaven's sake, it's all name recognition. Everyone knows who Mrs. Bill Clinton is. Only the Democrat camp-followers know who Obama is, the ones who actually watch CBS and CNN.

Long about the next September (that's September 2008!) you'll find the name recognition of the two major candidates evening out, and then it'll come down to 'gut feelings' and which party does better at turning out the vote.

Forget policies, positions, ideologies, whatever. Mrs. Bill will win unless the Republicans can put up someone with (a) equal or greater name recognition, and (b) a more reasurring personality.

The best bet is probably Fred Thompson.

/Mr Lynn

Posted by Mark in Portland | August 16, 2007 4:17 PM

You are mixing and confusing 'intelligent' and 'educated'. Just because someone has a college degree doesn't mean they can find their way out of a paper bag, let alone choose a decent candidate to be president.

Posted by Steve Skubinna | August 16, 2007 6:47 PM

It's been an article of faith in the fever swamps of the Dem imagination that the reason they lose elections is that they're "too smart," i.e. they debate intelligently while Republicans pander to the worst element in all of us. Just run through the wailing and gnashing of teeth after 2004 and review the bitter complaints about the electorate's stupidity.

Oddly, I don't recall hearing complaints from Dems after 2006 about stupid voters.

Posted by Bennett | August 16, 2007 7:50 PM

Personally I think this has to do with the fact that those who consider themselves intellectually superior like to be out of the mainstream. They like to be different from the masses, it's a way of proving to themselves that they are more cultured and discerning than the great unwashed. They are "other" than whatever the rest of us might be. So if Hillary is the "mainstream" candidate on the Dem side, they would instinctively seek out someone else. But of course the candidate who is out of the mainstream generally doesn't get the majority of the votes and so their preferred candidate typically loses. I don't think they really mind this though because they don't want the rest of us sharing their point of view. They lose their "otherness" that way.

Posted by mistercalm | August 16, 2007 9:06 PM

I just read a Yahoo headline: Obama hits back at criticism of his lack of experience. What he say: "AM TOO!"

Posted by ERNurse | August 17, 2007 4:00 AM

Ah, Barack Obama: the Official Candidate of the brainless bimbo (TM).

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