skip to main content
Did Clinton's Message Help Her or Help Obama?

Did Clinton's Message Help Her or Help Obama?

With Barack Obama winning the Democratic nomination for president -- not Hillary Clinton -- it's understandable that so much of the focus around our recent USA Today/Gallup Poll has been on the finding that 30% of Clinton's primary voters are not supporting Obama for president.

As reported earlier this week on, 16% of registered Democrats who say they supported Clinton in the primaries say they would vote for John McCain if the election were held today, while another 14% are undecided.

Given the apparent adulation around Clinton in the convention hall last night, however, I think it's worth noting that the percentage of Obama primary voters nationwide who harbor negative feelings about Clinton (32%) is much higher than the percentage of Clinton primary voters who have a negative view of Obama (18%).

Clinton had more leftover primary wounds to soothe with her convention speech Tuesday night than Obama does this Thursday.

The initial media reviews of Clinton's speech were good and suggest she may have succeeded in that. But did Clinton give her primary voters enough reason to support Obama? Although 30% of Clinton voters are not supporting Obama right now, as noted only about half that figure (18%) have negative feelings about him. She may have persuaded some of these anti-Obama Clinton supporters to hold their nose and pull the lever for Obama. However, it would seem that the rest (those who aren't voting for Obama, but like him) are withholding their support for reasons other than post-primary resentment.

In other words, it's not just about her. Hillary Clinton's emphasis on the personal dimension last night -- her "don't think about me when you vote, think about the issues" theme -- may not address the real reason many of her primary voters are not supporting Obama for president.

Could it be ideological? The latest USA Today/Gallup poll doesn't show a tremendous difference in terms of the self-described ideology of Obama versus Clinton primary supporters. Clinton primary voters are just slightly more likely than Obama voters to describe their political views as conservative (21% vs. 15%).

Does it come down to experience? Very possible. About half of Clinton primary voters (51%) say they are very or somewhat concerned that "Barack Obama lacks sufficient experience to be an effective president." Only 23% of Obama primary voters express this view.

This suggests the other challenge Clinton could have addressed last night is convincing her primary voters that Obama is ready to be the leader of the free world, commander in chief of the U.S. military, and that he can hit the ground running with Congress to pass universal health care, etc. Republican pundits were quick to point out she didn't say anything approaching this in her speech. If Bill Clinton doesn't make a strong case for Obama tonight, then it will be mainly left for Obama to do for himself on Thursday.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030