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Wednesday, December 3, 2003
The Perot/Nader Problem

By Steven Taylor @ 9:07 pm

To partially answer Megan’s question, it is nearly indisputable (at least as much as any counter-factual can be) that Nader cost Gore the presidency. Just look at Nader’s 97.488 votes in Florida. The case is less clear for Perot (and indeed, it is likely that had Perot not run, Clinton still would have won-but it is a much more complex counter-factual scenario than Gore in 2000). Plus, many Democrats are just plain mad over the 2000 election, stoking their anger at third party types who might siphon off their votes all the higher.

Plus, anything that might stand in the way of a Democratic victory in 2004 will bring down the anger of many on the left-as will any reminder of Bush’s 2000 win.

Filed under: 2004 Campaign
  • Signifying Nothing linked with Perot versus Nader

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  1. Also throw into the Perot factor the fact that many conservatives were not happy with Bush I for breaking the no-new-taxes pledge. So it was not like Perot potentially caused the defeat of a say, Reaganite.

    Comment by mark — Wednesday, December 3, 2003 @ 9:25 pm

  2. Actually I would disagree with the conventional wisdom that Nader cost Gore the election. In fact I would argue that Nader nearly tipped the election to Gore.

    Remember the late polls in the 2000 election? Going into the last weekend all polls showed Bush with a 3-5% national lead, with 15% or so undecided. The late deciders then broke about 65-35% to Gore.

    This often happens in close races. With Nader in the race the people were presented with a choice: Left (Nader), Middle (Gore) and Right (Bush). People who have trouble making up their minds often pick the middle, seemingly safest, option. If Nader hadn’t been there Gore would have gotten that 3% (or some wouldn’t have voted), but would not have gotten the late break of undecided.

    A couple of things muddle (but do not destroy) this analysis. The first is that Pat Buchannan was in the race nationally. He could be seen as being to the right of Bush to balance the picture. However he had been pretty much given up by that time, out of money and falling in the polls. Also on about half of his issues he was also to the left of Gore.

    The other factor was the late DUI story. That may have made Bush look a little more risky and pushed some undecideds to Gore.

    But the basic dynamic was that Nader made Gore look less radical, less of a “risky scheme". That pulled undecided votes from Bush to Gore.

    Comment by Buckland — Wednesday, December 3, 2003 @ 10:15 pm

  3. A couple of data points:

    - The second choice of most Nader voters was Gore (2000 American National Election Study shows about a 2-1 split in favor of Gore among the respondents who admitted they voted for Nader after the election).
    - The 1992 ANES shows that equal numbers of respondents (108 versus 111) who reported voting for Perot considered Clinton and Bush, respectively (20 reported considering both).

    The Perot question is a little more complex, because it’s a question of whether there were systematic variations in voting behavior that cost Bush electoral college votes. I don’t think it really worked that way, but it might be an interesting question to play with eventually.

    (The only reason I had this data at my fingertips is that one of the chapters of my diss is on strategic voting in the 1992-2000 presidential elections.)

    Comment by Chris Lawrence — Thursday, December 4, 2003 @ 2:02 am

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