June 26, 2003
Three representatives of the Center traveled to the Johns Hopkins University campus, in Baltimore, to staff an education table at the evening conference. During a relatively short period (5:30pm-7:30pm) the staff conducted a presidential straw poll, using a ranked-choice method that allowed us to count the ballots using an instant runoff voting system. The primary goal of this activity was to educate conference goers on how vote using an instant runoff ballot, the general pros and cons of the system, and how votes will be eventually counted. 84 ballots were cast in the two-hour period. None of the seven candidates (four candidates seeking the Democratic nomination, two being considered for the Green party nomination and incumbent president George Bush) had a majority of voters after the first round, but after the instant runoff process, Ralph Nader was the winner. A closer scrutiny of the rounds of counting, particularly the second round, illustrates some trends in the voting preferences.
View the results (Excel spreadsheet)
As noted on the spreadsheet at the above link, Nader was able to pull out the win by the fifth round of counting. Though this was a fairly diverse field, the electorate (a Ralph Nader, liberal convention) was certainly not an accurate representation of the entire American electorate. With that said, this rather unscientific poll identifies a few preliminary trends in voters. Probably the starkest inclination was for Nader voters to put Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich as their number two candidate, and visa versa to a lesser degree; 63% of voters ranked Ralph Nader either first or second, while 56% of voters ranked Kucinich first or second. Former Vermont governor Howard Dean was ranked first or second by 31% of voters, while the remaining candidates were ranked first or second by fewer than 17% of voters. Tying this into a recent straw poll at the Take Back America conference, Kucinich was voted a strong second-place finisher at both a pro-progressive Democrat and a pro-Green convention, illustrating that he may be more appealing to Green-leaning voters than Dean. Dean won the straw poll at the Take Back America conference and the recent Move-On poll of members, but had relatively low first round appeal at this polling. Please remember that we have not yet done a polling which includes the entire democratic spectrum (centrists have not been included thus far in the polling population).
Note that one advantage of using ranked ballots in such straw polls is seeing surprising relationships among voters – or lack of relationship, as the case may be. For example, of the six people who ranked Hillary Clinton as their first choice, only one ranked Nader or Kucinich as a second choice. Despite Nader and Kucinich outpacing the field, neither was the majority second choice of any other candidate. Many voters professed to be still in process of learning about candidates. Tracking such straw polls in the future will indicate where coalitions among voters are forming.