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Perennial presidential candidate Ralph Nader is in an uphill battle for both media coverage and significant poll numbers. But somehow he's managing to get the latter without getting any of the former, he said in a recent radio interview.
"The most recent Associated Press poll has Nader-Gonzalez at 6 percent, without any national coverage, against McCain and Obama," Nader said during a June 18 interview on Democracy Now!, an independent, left-leaning radio program.
Nader garnered less than half that in the 2000 election and, by many accounts, damaged Al Gore enough to hand George W. Bush the White House.
We checked the Associated Press polls and found none that gave Nader 6 percent. The most recent AP poll prior to the interview was an AP-Yahoo poll from April 17 that had Nader at 3 percent.
Nader spokesman Chris Driscoll acknowledged the candidate had erred, and said he meant to cite a June 6 CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll , which did indeed have Nader and his running mate Matt Gonzalez at 6 percent against Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, Republican Sen. John McCain and former GOP Rep. Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate.
The finding needs context, though. Was it just an outlier? And what does it say about how Nader will do in November?
Other recent polls show Nader with less support. A Rasmussen Reports poll released May 18 showed Nader pulling in 4 percent against Obama, McCain and Barr. A Reuters/Zogby poll released June 18 showed Nader with 3 percent. A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll released June 19, the day after Nader's interview, gave him 4 percent.
History suggests, however, that even these polls overstate Nader's prospects. At this time in 2000, he was showing around 4 or 5 percent in most national polls, and he ended up with 2.7 percent of the vote. Around this time in 2004, polls had Nader at anywhere from 3 to 7 percent. He got just .38 percent in the end.
Now, onto Nader's assertion that his support has come "without any national coverage." Clearly he was speaking rhetorically — we found his name mentioned 166 times on the major broadcast and cable news programs between the first of the year and the June 18 interview.
But that's six months. Obama and McCain had been mentioned on television about that much in just the previous three days. Nader's coverage had been so slight compared to that of the major-party candidates that we have a hard time holding his hyperbole against him.
We are also reluctant to pick on Nader too much for getting the name of a poll wrong. So with the caveat that his claim says little about how he'll do in November, we find it Mostly True.
Interview with Trevor Thompson, manager of news surveys at the Associated Press, June 24
CNN.com, Poll Finds Electorate Split Between Obama, McCain , June 6, 2008
Associated Press, Poll: Obama Leads McCain Nationally by Slight Margin , June 6, 2008
Rasmussen Reports, Will Third Party Candidates Tip the Presidential Race? May 18, 2008
Zogby International, Reuters/Zogby Poll: Obama Leads McCain, But Wins No Big Bounce , June 18, 2008
Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll results , June 19, 2008
Washington Post, Nader's Bid Complicates Gore's Task , May 25, 2000
Washington Post, A Defiant Nader Stands Up to Criticism; Green Party Nominee Tells Angry Liberals He's Not Responsible If Gore Loses, Nov. 9, 2000
Boston Globe, Bush May Need Broader Campaign, Slips in Polling in Crucial States June 1, 2004
New York Times, Nader to Run, Citing Events Of 2004 Race , Feb. 25, 2008
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