Voters Who Plan to Hold Their Noses
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
From the studios of NPR West, this is Day to Day, I'm Alex Chadwick.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And I'm Madeleine Brand. Hillary Clinton's election strategy this week is get superdelegates to change their minds. And after her win in Puerto Rico yesterday, she repeated her call to let every vote count.
Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): You voted even though some tried to tell you that your votes wouldn't count. You voted for the person you believe will be the stronger nominee and the strongest president.
CHADWICK: Come this fall, will you get to vote for the person you think will be the strongest president? Or has the intense primary season left you wanting to hold your nose when you vote in November?
BRAND: Some conservative Republicans say they will be doing just that because they do not want to vote for Republican Senator John McCain. And some Hillary Clinton supporters say they'd rather not vote at all if Barack Obama is the Democratic nominee.
CHADWICK: So we asked listeners to write us to say if you think you'll be holding your nose on Election Day, and dozens of you did.
BRAND: Tom Carroll (ph) of Escondido, California, says, "I am an Obama supporter, not a Hillary backer. If put to the test and Clinton wins the nomination, I will hold my nose and vote for her in the presidential election."
CHADWICK: Sheree Moser (ph) is an attorney; she's a stay-at-home mom right now in Deer Lodge, Montana. Sheree, thank you for being with us.
(Soundbite of child crying)
Ms. SHEREE MOSER: There you go, sorry.
CHADWICK: There's the stay-at-home mom part. So you would describe yourself as a Democratic voter, yes, most of the time anyways.
Ms. MOSER: Yes, I do, most of the time.
CHADWICK: OK, however, you emailed us to say if Senator Clinton is the nominee for the Democrats, you will not hold your nose. You'll vote for Senator McCain.
Ms. MOSER: That's correct.
CHADWICK: And why is that?
Ms. MOSER: Several reasons. I've liked John McCain in the previous elections where he's run. I've think that - I guess number one, I don't trust Clinton. I think she's disingenuous, I think she's power-hungry. I also think she's a divisive candidate more than McCain is.
CHADWICK: So you are voting more for the person than for the policies or the party?
Ms. MOSER: Well, McCain has come across party lines on really important issues, and I think that's why I'm willing to vote for him. You know, given these other characteristics, I'm willing to vote for him over a Democrat because I've seen him - I mean, he's crossed lines on campaign finance reform, on environmental stuff. So I think he's kind of, I guess, to an extent a renegade Republican, and I like that about him.
CHADWICK: So if Senator Obama is the nominee, as appears likely, would you consider voting for Senator McCain, or are you saying, no, that's the person I really want?
Ms. MOSER: No, I would definitely vote for Obama over McCain.
CHADWICK: And why is that?
Ms. MOSER: Primarily because he is a Democrat. You know, environmental policies, all - Supreme Court nominees and those are the reasons I would prefer to vote for a Democrat. But on the other hand, I like McCain better than I like Clinton.
CHADWICK: Hey, get back to being a mom. Thanks for your opinion.
CHADWICK: Sheree Moser speaking with us from Deer Lodge, Montana, thank you.
Ms. MOSER: Thank you very much.
BRAND: David Shames (ph) of Haley, Idaho, feels differently. He writes, "I'm going to hold my nose and vote for the Democratic candidate. Normally, I don't want to see both houses of Congress and the administrative branch in the same party."
CHADWICK: And he goes on to say, "this time around, however, I am deeply concerned about the make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court."
BRAND: Ed Williams is here now, he lives in Long Beach, California. Welcome to the program.
Mr. ED WILLIAMS (Member, Minuteman Project): Thank you.
BRAND: So who are you voting for?
Mr. WILLIAMS: I am going to hold my nose and vote for McCain.
BRAND: You're going to hold your nose and vote for McCain.
Mr. WILLIAMS: Correct.
BRAND: Why are you holding your nose?
Mr. WILLIAMS: Well, I agree with McCain 80 percent of the time, but that's a big 20 percent that I don't agree with him. That's mostly the illegal immigration issue.
BRAND: Right, he was actually the author of the McCain-Kennedy Bill, which was the comprehensive immigration reform package that failed but did provide a path to citizenship. Do you hold that against him?
Mr. WILLIAMS: I certainly do, and so do many other conservative Republicans.
BRAND: So who was your original candidate? Your favorite candidate?
Mr. WILLIAMS: Well, originally, it was Duncan Hunter. Duncan Hunter has been a hero of mine since I started in politics. When Duncan Hunter endorsed Mike Huckabee, I went with Mike Huckabee. And now that there's only one choice, that's where I am - McCain.
BRAND: Well, have you ever thought, you know, I just can't do it, I can't pull the lever for him?
Mr. WILLIAMS: No, not at all. However, just because we're going to be voting for him does not mean that we're not going to continuously debate our position on the border.
BRAND: When you say we, who are you referring to?
Mr. WILLIAMS: I am a member of the Minuteman Project. I am an adviser to Jim Gilchrist.
BRAND: And the Minuteman Project, has is come out in favor of McCain or any of the candidates?
Mr. WILLIAMS: No, no. As a matter of fact, it sounds like a lot of the people who are not members of the Republican Party who are members of the Minuteman Project are going to support Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate.
BRAND: So why aren't you supporting Bob Barr?
Mr. WILLIAMS: Because I don't believe Bob Barr has a chance of being elected. And even if he did, as a Libertarian president in a two-party system, he's not going to be able to accomplish much.
BRAND: Now, I understand that you yourself are running for office.
Mr. WILLIAMS: I am, I am running in the 55th District for the California Assembly.
BRAND: And do you face stiff opposition?
Mr. WILLIAMS: Yes, I'm in an overwhelmingly Democratic district.
BRAND: That's Ed Williams. He is holding his nose and voting for John McCain.
CHADWICK: We also heard from Doug Krause (ph) in Davis, California. "As a Democrat and Hillary Rodham Clinton supporter, I will not be holding my nose in November."
BRAND: He goes on to write, "If Senator Clinton is not the nominee, she'll be my write-in vote for president.
CHADWICK: Susan Stauffer (ph) is an emergency room doctor in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dr. Stauffer, you noted that you've actually been using this phrase "hold your nose" under what circumstances?
Dr. SUSAN STAUFFER (Pittsburgh ER Doctor): In discussions with my friends. I have many friends who are more ardent Hillary supporters, and I am an equally ardent Obama supporter. I would say, well, if it comes down to the fact that Hillary is the representative of the Democratic Party, I will vote for her, but I will hold my nose. And I'm afraid it's getting even worse. I'm afraid I'm getting disturbingly close to examining third-party candidates if she were to be the nominee.
CHADWICK: Why not just go for a third-party candidate anyway in the event that Senator Clinton became the nominee for the party?
Dr. STAUFFER: I'm concerned that voting a third party would dilute the votes and therefore, allow the Republican Party to gain power again.
CHADWICK: Your friends who are supporters of Senator Clinton, are they going to hold their noses and vote for Senator Obama if he is, as appears likely now, the nominee?
Dr. STAUFFER: I think that many of them will. They are concerned that there is such a racial divide in our country that perhaps he can't win. On the other hand, many of them are in favor of Hillary simply because we want to see a woman being president. But my desire to see a woman being president is not enough to vote for her.
CHADWICK: There are people who say a vote is the most principled public civic decision that one can make. And are you a person of lesser principles if you will hold your nose and vote for someone who you actually...
Dr. STAUFFER: No, I don't think so. I don't always go with the person who I agree with on every issue. For instance, my first choice was Bill Richardson.
CHADWICK: The governor of New Mexico.
Dr. STAUFFER: Yes. But my match-up on the computer said that I should really be for Chris Dodd. And I said, who's he?
(Soundbite of laughter)
CHADWICK: What about Democrats who say, you know, I'd rather vote for John McCain than for Hillary Clinton?
Dr. STAUFFER: Emotions really should not play that much of a part in choosing the leader of the greatest country in the world. We need to look at the policies; we need to be fair.
CHADWICK: Dr. Susan Stauffer in Pittsburgh, thank you.
Dr. STAUFFER: Thank you.
BRAND: For a more scientific look at this nose-holding phenomenon, we're joined by Michael Dimock. He's with the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Welcome to the program.
Mr. MICHAEL DIMOCK (Pew Research Center for the People and the Press): Thanks for having me.
BRAND: Now, you've done various surveys, and one of them actually does measure this phenomenon. How do you tell whether or not people are, as we're calling it, holding their nose when they're voting for a candidate?
Mr. DIMOCK: Well we ask them straight up after we ask who they think they'd like to vote for this fall, we say well, is that more a vote for that candidate or more a vote against the other candidate.
BRAND: So let's say in a hypothetical match-up between Barack Obama and John McCain, what are you seeing?
Mr. DIMOCK: We're seeing a lot of voting for this year. People tend to like their candidates. Obama has been a candidate that drew a lot of enthusiasm from Democratic-leaning voters from the start. And when we asked them whether - those who support him, whether they're voting for him or against McCain, 75 percent say they're voting for him. That's the highest we've seen in our polling over the past decade.
On McCain's side, he started the year with Republicans sort of lukewarm towards him. But they've warmed to him over the past few months, and most Republican voters who are leaning towards him at this point say that they see their vote as a vote for him, not against Obama.
BRAND: Let's turn to the Democrats now exclusively for just a moment, and look at Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. There have been a lot of news articles about how Clinton supporters or Obama supporters really don't want to vote for the other candidate, and may not.
Mr. DIMOCK: There is some of that out there. And if there's any group of voters who's in the position to vote while holding their nose, so to speak, it's Clinton supporters if Obama is ultimately the nominee. They started the year liking Obama a lot. In fact, there was so much goodwill among Democrats early on; they thought all the candidates were great, they were going to be happy with anyone. But as the campaign has progressed, both Clinton supporters and Obama supporters have grown increasingly negative towards the other candidate. And Clinton supporters aren't feeling so great about Obama right now. And when we asked them well, if it's between Obama and McCain, most say they'd back Obama, but most of them do say it's more a vote against McCain that it is a vote for Obama.
BRAND: So holding their nose.
Mr. DIMOCK: Yeah, a little bit of that.
BRAND: Are there particular groups who are more likely to say they're angry and they'll be holding their nose if Obama's the nominee?
Mr. DIMOCK: One of the trends we saw in our latest poll that's particularly interesting is among women, especially women who support Hillary Clinton, whose view of Obama has shifted toward the negative at the highest rate in recent months.
BRAND: Now, is it something that he's done in particular, or is it that they're just feeling negative about the fact that their candidate doesn't look like she's going to win the nomination?
Mr. DIMOCK: There are questions people have about Obama, and I think early on they were in the back of people's minds. Questions about his experience and his capability as a leader. He's a little bit untested. Questions about his toughness, his ability to handle foreign policy and whether he really has the leadership to make tough calls in a challenging time for this country. When he was just a kind of hypothetical early on, they weren't really bothering people as much. His theme of change and difference really overrode that.
But as you get closer to it, looking like he may well be the nominee, those concerns come to the surface. Now, they also come to the surface because the Clinton campaign has really been focusing on those very themes. And so it's not all sour grapes. I think there are substantive concerns that have been growing in people's minds over the past months about Obama, particularly among Clinton supporters and among Republicans.
BRAND: Michael Dimock with the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Thank you.
Mr. DIMOCK: Sure, thank you very much.
CHADWICK: Stay with us on Day to Day from NPR News.
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