New Twists On "Who Would You Rather Have a Beer With?"

There is a general sense in politics that it helps a candidate if he (and yes, in this case, it is definitely "he" rather than "he or she") comes across as "the guy with whom you would most like to have a beer." For example, we were often told during 2000 and 2004 that this was an advantage for Bush over Gore and Kerry. If people would rather have a beer with Bush, then that means they view Bush as more personable and homey than the supposedly stiff Gore and Kerry. Or, at least, more personable and homey to dudes.

Well, the latest Time poll, which I blogged about last night, included some rather odd questions that offer a new spin on the "who would you rather have a beer with," adage. Looking deep into the internals, (pages 12 and 13 of this pdf), check out this insanity:
Q21. Which of the presidential candidates would...

A) Make the best high school principal?
Clinton: 20%
Giuliani: 16%
Obama: 14%
McCain: 9%
Gore: 8%
Edwards: 6%
Gingrich: 4%
Romney: 2%
Biden: 1%
Huckabee: 1%
Other / Unsure: 19%

B) Be the best contestant on dancing with the stars:
Clinton: 19%
Obama: 18%
Edwards: 9%
Giuliani: 9%
Gore: 6%
Romney: 2%
Gingrich: 2%
McCain: 1%
Biden: 1%
Other / Unsure: 31%

C) You trust the most to babysit your children or children you know:
Clinton: 21%
Edwards: 12%
McCain: 9%
Obama: 8%
Giulinai: 7%
Gore: 6%
Romney: 6%
Gingrich: 3%
Brownback: 1%
Other / Unsure: 28%
This is the sort of poll that can tell us a lot more about our culture, and about the national view of presidential candidates, than virtually any trial heat or benchmark poll could muster. Notice, for example, that Obama is viewed as a good dancer, but not as someone people want to babysit their children. Tell me there isn't cultural stereotyping and latent racism in that. Note also how people want Edwards to babysit their children, but not be their school principal. Do people view him as nurturing, but not tough? Clinton also trounces the field in the babysitter category--again, tell me no cultural stereotyping is taking place. Also, Clinton leads all of these personable categories, which might go a long way toward explaining why she leads in primary trial heats. People tend to vote more on personal qualities, identity perceptions and party self-identification than they do on policy positions, after all. This stuff is very important, even if it is nebulous and difficult to pin down.

I wouldn't mind seeing more polling along these lines. I would also like to know what 3% of the population would like to leave their children with Gingrich. That is a truly horrifying proposition.

Tags: Culture, polls, President 2008 (all tags)

Comments

24 Comments

Babysitting and dancing with the stars...

Has to be the same contingent that thinks he'd be good on Dancing with the Stars...

"insanity" isn't the right word, I think.  "Inanity"--yes.  And because these questions are so inane, I predict we'll be hearing about these "results" from now until the election.  

by CTvoter 2007-03-30 10:54AM | 0 recs
Just one question: On Dancing with the Stars...

...would Rudy be in drag? Because if so, I'd have to put him at the top of the list.

by MeanBoneII 2007-03-30 10:58AM | 0 recs
not to take this at all seriously but

As a mom I think it is understandable that more people would trust HRC as a babysitter.  We trust our children with those who we know, and she has been in my living room for 14+ years.

by aiko 2007-03-30 11:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Racism to be a good dancer?

How is it racism with regard to dancing when Hillary scores higher than Obama?  I thought it was because Obama is younger and seemed to be more athletic looking. Hillary is seen as someone who would take a challenge and would work hard to excel at whatever challenge she faced. You are reaching and playing the race card.

by meliou2 2007-03-30 11:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Racism to be a good dancer?

"Obama is viewed as a good dancer, but not as someone people want to babysit their children"

Consider the whole sentence, not just the dancing.

by jallen 2007-03-30 11:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Racism to be a good dancer?

Well, it never crossed my mind and I'm black. I would prefer a mother than a father to babysit my child - white or black.

by meliou2 2007-03-30 11:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Racism to be a good dancer?

But the same people thought he'd make an excellent high school principal. Why would trusting somebody to do a good job taking care of your teenage children but not your young children be racist? If anything it seems more sexist to me; I suspect that's how people would respond to a generic man if they were asked a question like that. I notice that with only two exceptions, every man in the survey was more trusted with teenagers than with young children -- and the two exceptions were Edwards, who was a very publicly visible father of young children during the '04 campaign, and Romney, who is probably just benefiting from the fact that all the other top candidates are mistrusted by religious right folks.

I have to admit, I think this poll is really really silly, but at the same time, I'd sure like to see the electorate's responses to "Which candidate would you want your child to be married to?" I think that would be pretty interesting to see. If Obama started coming in after any of those divorced white guys, then I think we'd have a pretty good idea something was up.

by tjekanefir 2007-03-30 12:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Racism to be a good dancer?

No, a proportion of the group as a whole thought that. No evidence that it was the same individuals for different questions.

by Englishlefty 2007-03-30 02:51PM | 0 recs
Comes back to the question of who wasn't included

You know, like Al Jolson...

by jcjcjc 2007-03-30 11:20AM | 0 recs
I Concur.

It COULD represent racism and probably does to a certain extent given how much it is still part of our society.  But that is far from clear and the resullts of the poll could be chalked up to any number of reasons.

For example, Clinton is a woman, and women are stereotypically better caregivers than men.  That may be a sexist dynamic but its not racist.  Edwards' family has been in the news lately with Elizabeth's cancer and he has been portrayed positively as a good family man.  People are well aware that he has young children.  Obama is younger and polling shows the public thinks he is even younger than he is.  Many in the public might not even know he has kids.  I didn't realize he did until I read this post and checked.  There hasn't been as much focus on his family as Edwards' that's for sure.

Supporters of candidates are also probably more likely to pick their candidate in questions like these.  Older people who have children are probably more likely to pick Edwards and Clinton because more older people support those candidates.  Younger people, popular with Obama, might not know because they don't have children.

Now, this is all speculation, but I think at this is a fair explanation of what's going on, at least as fair as the racism theory.  Racism is still an insidious force in our society, but that doesn't mean its behind this dynamic here.

by you like it 2007-03-30 12:06PM | 0 recs
Re: I Concur.

I believe the charge of racism should not be flippantly imputed to others until all 'logical' - not plausible - explanations are exhausted. I commend you for your thoughtful  explanations but this posting's emotional charge of racism was uncalled for especially without any other supporting data in the polling. For example, Obama is 3rd for school principal and 2nd for dancing which in my opinion show high correlation to voters' preferences for nomination - as you've pointed out.

by meliou2 2007-03-30 12:46PM | 0 recs
Re: I Concur.

By the way, I must add that I like Chris and I do believe he may have suggested racism as a plausible explanation in order to spur such reaction as it did with me.

by meliou2 2007-03-30 12:50PM | 0 recs
On Gingrich's babysitting skills

Note that the question isn't just your children, it's also "children you know". Just sayin' - "children you know" isn't necessarily the same as children you like. Though leaving children in the same room as Mr. Family Values seems kinda excessive - aren't there laws against child abuse?

by McSnatherson 2007-03-30 11:32AM | 0 recs
Re: New Twists


Notice, for example, that Obama is viewed as a good dancer, but not as someone people want to babysit their children. Tell me there isn't cultural stereotyping and latent racism in that.

Your conclusion may very well be accurate, but the polling doesn't support it. Obama finished fourth overall on the baby sitting question, behind the "security mom" candidate, the "working families" candidate, and the "grandfatherly" candidate. He actually does pretty well from my perspective.

by blueflorida 2007-03-30 11:40AM | 0 recs
Babysitting

I remember the babysitting thing from '96, Bruce Willis was at a Dole rally saying that he and his wife had been watching the debate, and he turned and asked his wife which man he'd rather have watching the kids, and his wife said, "Dole! No contest!" (or something like that). Got a huge applause from the crowd. The next day, polls showed that the public disagreed with Mr and Mrs Willis by about four-to-one.

Mrs Willis (aka Demi Moore) had a month or two before posed for a Vanity Fair cover, naked, eight months pregnant and body-painted red white and blue.

It was perhaps teh silliest moment in politics ever, as  the name Monica meant nothing at that date.

by BlueinColorado 2007-03-30 11:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Babysitting

Thanks for the laugh.  I don't remember that from the campaign.  Funny how things have turned out.

I think these questions are just inane, but I look forward (with some concern) as to how all this silliness gets repackaged as something TO BE TAKEN VERY SERIOUSLY by the mainstream media.  Anyone want to wager how long it is before these results start popping up on CNN?  (Fox, I sort of discount, for many (obvious) reasons, but mostly because the Republicans don't look so good in this one....)

by CTvoter 2007-03-30 01:18PM | 0 recs
Not sure about that

Actually, I think these questions are too specific to be of much use.

Everyone in the country saw John Edwards carrying around his two young children during the last presidential campaign. It's really no surprise that people associate "fatherhood" with him more immediately than they do with Obama. If you have a pre-existing image in your memory banks of a man carrying around a sleepy five-year-old child, is it a big surprise you'd be more likely to pick him out of a lineup as someone who'd be a good babysitter?

With Hillary I'm sure there's that automatic bias towards a female babysitter, but on the other hand, the traditional gender bias towards male high-school principals went out the window with her -- quite possibly because everyone in the country has all those images in their memory banks of her successfully raising a teenager, so they automatically figure she'd be good at it, just like they automatically figure Edwards must be good at taking care of young children.

I bet you a Coke that if Obama wins the nomination and we see 10,000 images of him playing with his grade-school daughters, you'll see the percentage of people who think he'd make a good babysitter shoot up.

by tjekanefir 2007-03-30 12:05PM | 0 recs
High school principals

For some reason I'm finding it mildly amusing that two of the candidates here-- Barack Obama and Newt Gingrich-- actually have real-world teaching experience, yet neither did particularly well on the high school principal question. Maybe this is like the "candidate you'd most like to have a beer with" being the non-drinker?

(Mind you, I don't know if Gingrich was a good history professor, but...)

Incidentally, looking at the full poll here, it's fascinating to look over the "current events" questions-- about Iraq, about the prosecutor firings-- and see how consistently the pro-administration view of the situation hovers right at or around that magical 30% threshold...

by Silent sound 2007-03-30 12:14PM | 0 recs
Re: High school principals

Gingrich would've been a gut professor-- easy to flatter, and you got an A if you repeated his own pet ideas and phrases back to him.

by BlueinColorado 2007-03-30 12:20PM | 0 recs
Everyone Knows Hillary can't dance

If I were Obama, i'd demand a recount...

by freaktown 2007-03-30 12:48PM | 0 recs
It's not about the beer, exactly...

CA Pol Junkie's Grand Unifying Theory of Presidential Politics states,

The winner of the presidential general election is the candidate who would win an election to be Prom King

It works back to at least 1976 - you don't need to worry about silly stuff like issues, experience, or tax plans.  People just choose the cool dude.  (Until proven otherwise, I think Ms. Clinton would need to win the "dude" contest on that level as well, disadvantageous to her though it may be.)

That means Edwards and Obama (in no particular order) are our best choices, and Romney and Thompson (probably in that order) would be the GOP's.  You heard it here first!

by CA Pol Junkie 2007-03-30 12:55PM | 0 recs
Re: New Twists

Hell no, I wouldn't want Obama babysitting my children: because then he wouldn't be hanging out with me. . .duh!  Although the dancing thing. . .um, let's avoid racial stereotypes please.  

It is nice to see the pollsters having some fun.  Seriously, those guys need to get out more.  

by Jim Treglio 2007-03-30 01:31PM | 0 recs
Take a break from the Kool Aid

This is not particularly useful and was completely predictable for those questions:

Anything having to do with children, most would favor a woman.

When it comes to a school principle, in addition to the association with children angle is the disciplinarian aspect, hence the rise in the authoritarians ghouliani and mccain.

Your Edwards analysis is right out of reinforcing false republican talking points of him being a girly man (give up the kool aid, its bad for everyone's health). But a less republican cultist view could easily conclude the low showing on (1) is that he is not authoritarian and the high showing on (3) is that he is responsible, but fun - after all kids want a baby sitter that is fun, not one that is nurturing.

And yes, Americans think blacks inherently have soul so Obama scores on the dancing, just like they think girls like dancing more than boys so Clinton has an edge.
.

by gak 2007-03-30 08:03PM | 0 recs
Gringrich The Babysitter

I would also like to know what 3% of the population would like to leave their children with Gingrich. That is a truly horrifying proposition
Perhaps if the kid's in their terrible twos, it's a form of revenge for everything that's happened since 1994.

by Paul Rosenberg 2007-03-30 11:23PM | 0 recs

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