McCainometrics: McVoters Think McBush Would Be McSame genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

If one can believe the latest Gallup poll, the ideological distance between John McCain and George W. Bush is way too small for a large number of voters. In fact, nearly fifty percent of voters are very concerned that John McCain would pursue the same policies as his predecessor.

McCain faces a challenge in trying to convince voters to allow him to follow an unpopular president of the same party. Democratic candidate Barack Obama has attempted to link McCain to Bush by saying that electing McCain would effectively lead to a "third Bush term." Although McCain remains competitive in head-to-head matchups with Obama, the poll suggests that McCain may have more work to do to distance himself from Bush.

It is clearly a delicate balancing act for McCain, as Bush remains relatively popular with the Republican base. While only 28% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing as president, a majority of Republicans (60%) still do. Bush's approval rating among current McCain supporters is slightly lower, at 55%.


A recent CBS News poll asked registered voters what they thought McCain would do -- continue Bush's policies, change to more conservative policies, or change to less conservative policies. A plurality of 43% believe he would continue Bush's policies, but more expect some change -- either more conservative (21%) or less conservative (28%) policies. Thus, while most voters express concern about McCain being too much like Bush, most do not necessarily expect this to happen.

I doubt that McCain can take comfort in the CBS poll numbers. I'm of the opinion that a large precentage of the 21% who think McCain will be more conservative than Bush aren't going to vote for McCain. I say that because the GOP base generally thinks McCain is too liberal. Hence, I suspect that the respondents who stated McCain would be more conservative were left of center and don't view McCains conservative bona fides as a reason to vote for McCain.


Looking at the data regarding voter perceptions of Barack Obama's seems to support my contentions. The percentage of voters who are very concerned Obama will go too far in changing the Bush policies stands at 30%. I would suggest that number results primarily from those who are a part of the fervently conservative GOP base. While 30% may seem like a concerning number, a look at the second polling question sheds more light on the mood of the electorate as a whole.

Of particular interest is the mood of those who consider themselves to be independents. Looking at those numbers suggests that they want a solid majority (56 percent to 42 percent) prefer a president who will not align himself with the policies of George Bush.

Comparing the responses to the McCain questions with the responses to the Obama questions provides some interesting anecdotal evidence. My impression is that voters are fairly certain they don't want to continue the Bush administration policies and they see McCain being too far to the right. At the same time, there is some trepidation that Obama may be a little too far to the left.

At this moment, it looks like the electorate wants to be sure the next president won't give them more of the same...but won't completely reinvent the wheel. The fact that Obama seems to be moving towards the center seems to suggest that his campaign may have a pretty good understanding of the mood of the electorate. It remains to be seen which candidate can find the delicate balance needed to assure voters in order to insure victory.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Change, Democrat, Gallup Poll, George W. Bush, GOP, Independent, John McCain, Polling

Daniel DiRito | July 1, 2008 | 11:13 AM
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