Survey Surprise: McCain Trounces Obama in Reader Preference

National polls consistently show Barack Obama as running ahead of John McCain in the race to become the next President of the United States. Past surveys of our readers have revealed changes in voter sentiment before similar results showed up in national polls. That may or may not happen this year but, in this anonymous survey, John McCain finished far ahead of Senator Obama–unlike our earlier survey which showed a very close race. Reader comments reveal the concerns and issues of importance to our readers. The underlying issues cited by many readers are often not discussed in the national media but may play a major role in the 2008 presidential race.

Last week, we asked readers to indicate who would receive their vote for President of the United States.

Some of our past surveys have been surprising. And, while the survey is not a scientific one in that the survey results show the answers of those who chose to respond, we have found that FedSmith readers are politically astute and that these informal surveys often reflect future trends in other national polls on political issues.

For example, a FedSmith survey showed a sudden, dramatic shift away from presidential candidate Howard Dean shortly before the Dean campaign imploded. And, in the last presidential election, a poll taken a few weeks before the presidential election showed readers shifting away from John Kerry and moving toward George Bush. In both instances, the results of these surveys were reflecting trends before they were obvious in national polls.

That is a long way of of introducing the results of the most recent survey. The results may surprise many people in the same way it has surprised us.

Back in May of this year, we conducted a similar survey. The results were very close and John McCain was preferred by Obama by a very small margin. Since that time, the candidates have become better known.

The surprise: The results are not even close. John McCain is the overwhelming favorite among our readers to become the next President of the United States. McCain polled 53% of the votes from readers while Barack Obama polled 38%. And, is a not so surprising result, the economy was selected as the primary concern among a majority of readers.

Here is a summary.

1.  If the election were being held today, which of the following candidates would receive your vote for President of the U.S.? Total Responses Percentage Grand Total
Barack Obama 603 38% 1579
John McCain 829 53% 1579
Other 69 4% 1579
Undecided 78 5% 1579
2.  Which topic is of most concern to you during this year’s presidential election? Total Responses Percentage Grand Total
Economy 763 48% 1579
Environment 35 2% 1579
Gas Prices 101 6% 1579
National Security 242 15% 1579
Health Insurance 36 2% 1579
Immigration 105 7% 1579
Pay and Benefits for Federal Workforce 72 5% 1579
War on Terror 134 8% 1579
Other 66 4% 1579
Undecided 25 2% 1579


What is the thinking of readers who voted in the poll?

The answers can be found in hundreds of comments sent in along with the votes in the survey. Several trends are apparent from these comments.

First, we received many more negative comments about Barack Obama than positive comments about John McCain. These comments indicate that many readers are strongly opposed to Obama and are voting for McCain as a result.

Also, many people voting for Obama cite their dislike of George Bush as the reason for voting for the presumptive Democratic nominee because they think that a McCain term would be very similar to that of the current President Bush.

Second, many readers do not strongly favor either candidate. Rather, they view the choice of McCain as the best choice among two choices they do not necessarily prefer as their first option.

And a third reason is also revealed among the comments from readers. Keep in mind, these comments are anonymous. We do not track any identifying information from those who have submitted comments. Our guess is that readers know this from past experience and feel free to voice their opinion on how they will vote more readily than they might respond to a telephone call from a pollster who knows their phone number.

The survey comments reveal that many readers have very strong, very negative views about Barack Obama and cited reasons such as his past record on issues,  because of some of his associations from his past, and his lack of experience on national issues. A number of people prefaced their comments with statements such as "America is ready for a black president but we need someone who is experienced." A number of readers also referred to the fact that his middle name is "Hussein" and indicated they could not vote for someone whose values and credentials are open to question in the mind of that voter.

It is not possible to know how much of a factor this last category will be in our national elections in November. But, based on the strong comments from readers and the results of our previous surveys in past elections, it is likely to play a bigger role than has been generally realized or acknowledged in the national media.

Here are a few representative comments sent in by readers.

A Claims Representative from SSA in Modesto, CA wrote: "A no brainer. No Bush clone in the White House."

A Postmaster from New York State proclaimed: "I am writing in Hillary Clinton for President on November 4, 2008."

A retiree from the Dept. of Energy in Shawnee Mission, KS says he "doesn’t get it": "I don’t understand people who support Obama. He says he will change things, but doesn’t say how, other than, for instance, doubling our taxes in order to help out people who don’t want to work for a living. The pastor of the church he pretends to not be affiliated with any longer, espouses that America he wants to lead, should be damned. The mid eastern ethnicity he pretends he’s not a part of, hates anyone who does not pray to Allah, and, given a chance, would wipe us out. Yet people still want him as our leader. I don’t get it."

A NASA retiree from Florida has this observation about the election: "When the Communist Party supports Senator Obama in his run for the Presidency ( ), how much more do we need to know about his background? A former POW and war hero is running against a man who has support extreme left-wing causes, has no experience and is endorsed by the Black Panthers and the Communist Party. Why is this election even close?"

A reader who describes himself as a former GS-13 with the Army at Ft. Lee, VA says he has changed his support: "I supported Obama until he started talking."

A manager with the FAA in New York City opined: "In a middle of a war, I can’t see electing some one who’s only experience is organizing community activities (Obama), and his only solution to the energy problem is to inflate your tires and tax the heck out of the oil companies."

A Program Specialist with the Navy in Jacksonville, FL says he is voting for the "lesser of two evils": "Voting for McCain, the lesser of two evils. I am amazed that so many Americans are willing to put a Socialist in the White House."

A retired attorney from SSA in San Diego supports Obama: "All of the issues are important–McCain wrong on all of them and the Republicans are corrupt."

A Financial Systems Analyst with DoD in Pensacola, FL writes: "I am a Florida resident who does not want offshore drilling and supports alternative energy. I do not agree with Senator Obama’s stated health care plans but overall I believe he will make the best President of the United States of America."

A Resource Conservationist with the USDA in Nebraska has one primary reason for supporting McCain: "I believe both canidates are seeking political power, but McCain would get my vote just because he has indicated that he would protect private firearm ownership if elected. I would never vote for any canidate that would try to take away the right of law abiding citzens to keep and bear firearms."

A Legal Assistant with the IRS in Miami is confused: "Everything is very confusing. I hear change but i don’t know what type of change. I like people more determined and that know and explains what he is going to do.

A Management and Program Analyst with the IRS in Austin, TX has this view of the two candidates: "I think it is time for a women or a minority as president, but I have to believe they are the best candidate as well. Race and sex are not the only, or even the most important, qualities for our next president. I know what McCain stands for. Obama says he is for change, but he flip flops and I don’t know what he wants to change to. With the presidency of the most powerful country in the world at stake, I’d rather play it safe. I don’t love McCain, but I know what he stands for."

A Physical Scientist with the Dept. of Interior in Salt Lake City, UT says he would consider voting for a 3rd party candidate under other circumstances: "This would be a vote against BH Obama. Neither are what I would like to have as a leader, but a 3rd party would tend to throw away my vote. If Obama weren’t the Democratic candidate I probably vote for a 3rd party."

A manager with the Treasury Department in Chicago cites experience as the reason for his vote: "Experience is the most inportant topic of concern in this election. McCain is experienced. Obama is not. We made the mistake of electing one unexperienced (sic) President, G W Bush. Let’s not repeat our mistake."

An engineer with the Army in Massachusetts will support Obama: "John McCain is George Bush Lite. Can we really survive four more years of George Bush? I can’t, and the country won’t benefit from it either."

An IRS agent in Philadelphia remembers the Clinton administration in an unfavorable way: "Trust me, as a fed, we are better off with McCain, during the Clinton years we didn’t hire and he was the first to invoke the emergency to avoid the Federal Pay comparatability Act. This is of course after all of the federal unions supported him. Bush has been tough on us but at least with him, we are hiring and paying attention to succession issues. Most of the Feds can retire within 5 years."

A human resources official with USDA in Alabama says this is the first time he has donated money to a candidate: "Possibilty of electing the most liberal senator in the Congress for President scares me to death! So much so that this is the first year I’ve felt compelled to donate money to the other side!"

A retiree from the Dept. of Health and Human Services says Obama has better ideas: "I’m voting for Obama because we need a comprehensive energy policy, a complete foreign policy overhaul, freedom from special interests, universal health care, jobs, fiscal responsibility, and an end to the Iraq War. The Republicans had their chance and they created new problems instead of solving old ones. Throw the bums out."

A rural letter carrier from Jamesville, NC had this comment: "We need a president that loves this nation, not one that despises it. We will elect a black president when a good one runs. This one aint it!!!"

A manager from the Bureau of Land Management in Texas opined: "Obama has ZERO experience, but can read a teleprompter well. He is NOT qualified to be the next leader of the free world!"

A contractor Classification Specialist with NASA in Huntsville, AL has this to say: "Change?? Change you say???? What, when, where, why, who pays. Poor people pay only a small fraction of the cost of running the government!!!!!! Analysis seems to be beyond comprehension for a lot of our citizens and most of the Media."

A budget assistant from Newport, RI has this observation on the election: "Even though I am a registered Democrat, I feel that the nominee is young, inexperienced, lacks military service and denies his mother’s side of the family (the people that raised him) by running as a "black" candidate. He has no family values from what I see."

An officer with the Bureau of Prisons in Hawaii cites his pay as the basis for his vote: "Living in Hawaii is not an option for me…this is my home. The cost of living here is killing us and I don’t believe Barack Hussein cares."

A retired Accounting Officer with DoD summarized his views on the election in this way: "veryone selecting Obama: Why is it that Ahmed Yousef, chief political adviser to the Prime Minister of Hamas want Obama for President? Moreover, how is it that after 143 days of work experience in the senate , Obama believed he is ready to be Commander In Chief, Leader of the Free World, and fill the shoes of Abraham Lincoln, FDR, JFK and Ronald Reagan? Just thinking."

A retiree from SSA in Dayton, Ohio offers this political summary: "I am most concerned that, after Obama is elected, he cleans house in Washington, throws out all the Bush appointees, restores our civil rights, removes all of Bush’s "signing statements", and helps to return the balance of powers to our government. The Bush Administration, aka The Wrecking Crew, has done a number on our government. It is shocking and frightening."


About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47