As American as apple pie! As reliable as your 401(k)! Yes indeed, boys and girls -- it's time once again for the Ten-Foot Poll, the nation's most distinctive look at who did what and why on this historic Election Day just past.
The Ten-Foot Poll was created to plug some of those glaring gaps in the election coverage offered by the networks, the cable outlets and even the internet. Our carefully chosen sample of 2,361 randomly invented voters provides the kind of insight you simply won't find anywhere else.
But enough palaver -- let's crunch those numbers!
By all accounts, the 2008 presidential campaign was overwhelmingly about "change," with both major-party candidates pledging to bring a different tone to Washington.
Asked to explain their hunger for a new direction, voters said they were:
a) tired of the Bush administration: 8%
b) very tired of the Bush administration: 9%
c) incredibly tired of the Bush administration: 21%
d) "Why don't they just leave already!!!": 62%
The public's opinion of the Bush White House proved a continuing challenge to the Republican standard-bearer, Sen. John McCain, despite his own lengthy record of public service.
Voters felt that President Bush's low approval ratings throughout 2008 were:
a) an albatross for McCain: 34%
b) a lead weight for McCain: 29%
c) more proof that God has a weird sense of humor: 37%
By contrast, Sen. Barack Obama had to try to overcome voter concerns that he was too young and inexperienced at a time of serious problems at home and abroad.
In addition, those most strongly opposed to Obama cited frequent allegations that Obama was:
a) an activist: 12%
b) a socialist: 22%
c) a terrorist: 14%
d) a negroist: 11%
e) a Hawaiian: 41%
Voters told us that the most important trait they were looking for in a president this year was:
a) experience: 35%
b) judgment: 36%
c) steadiness: 27%
d) someone to have a beer with: 2%
This was a major change from recent elections, as was the prominence in 2008 of economic issues. Foreign affairs and national security definitely took a back seat to kitchen-table domestic concerns this year, with voters describing the situation in Iraq as:
a) improving: 28%
b) deteriorating: 19%
c) "What's Iraq?": 53%
Many analysts believed that McCain forfeited the "experience" argument against Obama by his selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate. While Palin energized the Republican base, she was also a frequent source of controversy.
We found that overall, voters felt that Sarah Palin emerged from the campaign with:
a) an enhanced reputation: 21%
b) a damaged reputation: 23%
c) a lot of new clothes: 56%
Meanwhile, independent voters who voted for Obama felt that McCain would have been more appealing had he selected as his running mate:
a) Mike Huckabee: 18%
b) Mitt Romney: 26%
c) Rudy Giuliani: 25%
d) someone from the phone book: 31%
Negative impressions weren't the only motivators for voters, of course; our sample found plenty to like about the particular candidate they supported.
Obama backers found most compelling:
a) his specific policy positions: 17%
b) his life story: 16%
c) his speechmaking ability: 18%
d) the celestial light that constantly envelops him: 49%
While McCain backers cited:
a) his specific policy positions: 20%
b) his life story: 46%
c) his "Straight Talk": 28%
d) his comfort with the e-mail: 6%
The candidates had plenty of help along the campaign trail from surrogates, and our sample had strong reactions to two of the most prominent: former president Bill Clinton and ordinary citizen Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher -- "Joe the Plumber."
Bill Clinton's campaigning for Obama was seen as:
a) belated and grudging: 19%
b) timely and convincing: 22%
c) a great way to meet chicks: 59%
While voters felt that "Joe"'s next career move should be:
a) writing a tell-all book: 15%
b) becoming a country singer: 13%
c) running for office himself: 12%
d) getting that plumber's license: 60%
And finally, asked to look ahead to 2012, voters said they favored:
a) Barack Obama: 11%
b) John McCain: 10%
c) Hillary Clinton: 7%
d) Sarah Palin: 5%
e) another candidate: 3%
f) a nice long nap: 64%
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org