Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Will 2004 be a repeat of 1980?

Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball documents the similarities of this election year and 1980.

The similarities to 2004 are many:

  • Foreign policy seemed a mess, with the United States bogged down in a protracted crisis in the Middle East (Iran in 1980, Iraq in 2004).

  • Americans were unhappy about the economy, and gloomy about their financial futures.

  • Our primary international enemy appeared to be on the march and achieving major goals (the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in 1980, al Qaeda and terrorism in 2004).

  • As a consequence of all this, a sizeable majority said the country was seriously off on the wrong track.

  • Many voters, approaching or exceeding a majority, questioned whether the incumbent President and his team were competent enough to handle the myriad challenges before them.

  • An independent candidate for President added to the confusion of the election (John Anderson in 1980, Ralph Nader in 2004).

  • The country as a whole was uncertain what to do, and torn between keeping the devil they knew--Carter, Bush--or turning to an untested and ideologically 'extreme' alternative--Reagan on the right, Kerry on the left.

Amazing, isn't it? And remember how unreliable the polls were for much of 1980. In the Gallup survey, for instance, Carter led Reagan substantially early in the year, but gradually the race became a seesaw statistical dead heat, with one or the other candidate ahead by just a few points all the way to late October.

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