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2008 Presidential Contenders: Where They Stand, What They’re (Not) Saying, and How They’re Framing the Issues
Unformatted Document Text:  cluster analysis identifies a group of what we term “Social Conservatives” who are very concerned about moral issues including gun control. As for the candidates, clear partisan divides were evident on most of these, except for the death penalty and stem cell research, the latter of which has become less controversial due to scientific advancements. Huckabee, Paul, and Thompson strongly agreed that Americans possess the absolute right to own a gun. McCain agreed, as did Romney. Among Democrats, only Richardson agreed, while the rest slightly disagreed or disagreed. This is a divisive issue with a clear partisan divide. The death penalty received widespread support by all candidates except for Kucinich and Paul. Obama slightly agreed, versus Clinton’s agree and McCain’s strongly agree. Interestingly, despite the high number of impassioned bloggers, marijuana decriminalization was not a particularly hot topic. Among Republicans, only Paul favored the decriminalization of marijuana. Only Giuliani and Romney strongly disagreed, with McCain scoring a 2. This was consistent with their posture as law and order supporters, and it plays to their base. Among Democrats, Kucinich favored decriminalization, followed by Richardson who also agreed. Obama slightly disagreed, while the remaining Democrats were neutral. Strong agreement for homosexual rights, including gay marriage was expressed by only Kucinich, but Giuliani and Biden agreed as well. All of the other Democrats and Paul scored 5, indicating they slightly agreed. Meanwhile McCain and Thompson slightly disagreed, while Huckabee sharply disagreed. This issue is clearly not the hot-button issue it was in 2004. The abortion question, except for Giuliani, shows clear partisan cleavages: no GOP contenders were neutral or agreed, while all Democratic candidates agreed or strongly agreed on a woman’s right to chose. Huckabee strongly disagreed, while McCain disagreed; Clinton strongly agreed, while Barack agreed. Abortion was ranked third in importance by respondents in our study. This issue has legs, but not for every voter (see Tables 2 and 3). Abortion is an issue that triggers and divides liberals and social conservatives. Support for stem cell research, which by October 2007 no longer relied upon embryos, was supported by most candidates, except for Paul. Democrats all strongly agreed or agreed, as did McCain. This question is less controversial now given that cells can readily be obtained in a different manner. Which Issues are Missing from this Election Debate? From our Questionnaire? The process of conducting research on candidates’ issue positions led us to notice major areas that were largely omitted or covered with very little enthusiasm: campaign finance reform, including the role of lobbyists and crimes committed by public officeholders; corporate responsibility and regulation of corporations generally; poverty; human rights; education; civil liberties and privacy generally; religion and faith issues; and the environment broadly considered, except for global warming and “energy independence”. As the election cycle heats up, these issues may yet come to the fore. We will discuss some of these, but begin by 14

Authors: Soule, Suzanne., Nairne, Jennifer. and Iyer, Ravi.
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background image
cluster analysis identifies a group of what we term “Social Conservatives” who are very
concerned about moral issues including gun control. As for the candidates, clear partisan divides
were evident on most of these, except for the death penalty and stem cell research, the latter of
which has become less controversial due to scientific advancements.
Huckabee, Paul, and Thompson strongly agreed that Americans possess the absolute right to own
a gun. McCain agreed, as did Romney. Among Democrats, only Richardson agreed, while the
rest slightly disagreed or disagreed. This is a divisive issue with a clear partisan divide.
The death penalty received widespread support by all candidates except for Kucinich and Paul.
Obama slightly agreed, versus Clinton’s agree and McCain’s strongly agree. Interestingly,
despite the high number of impassioned bloggers, marijuana decriminalization was not a
particularly hot topic. Among Republicans, only Paul favored the decriminalization of marijuana.
Only Giuliani and Romney strongly disagreed, with McCain scoring a 2. This was consistent
with their posture as law and order supporters, and it plays to their base. Among Democrats,
Kucinich favored decriminalization, followed by Richardson who also agreed. Obama slightly
disagreed, while the remaining Democrats were neutral.
Strong agreement for homosexual rights, including gay marriage was expressed by only
Kucinich, but Giuliani and Biden agreed as well. All of the other Democrats and Paul scored 5,
indicating they slightly agreed. Meanwhile McCain and Thompson slightly disagreed, while
Huckabee sharply disagreed. This issue is clearly not the hot-button issue it was in 2004.
The abortion question, except for Giuliani, shows clear partisan cleavages: no GOP contenders
were neutral or agreed, while all Democratic candidates agreed or strongly agreed on a woman’s
right to chose. Huckabee strongly disagreed, while McCain disagreed; Clinton strongly agreed,
while Barack agreed. Abortion was ranked third in importance by respondents in our study. This
issue has legs, but not for every voter (see Tables 2 and 3). Abortion is an issue that triggers and
divides liberals and social conservatives.
Support for stem cell research, which by October 2007 no longer relied upon embryos, was
supported by most candidates, except for Paul. Democrats all strongly agreed or agreed, as did
McCain. This question is less controversial now given that cells can readily be obtained in a
different manner.
Which Issues are Missing from this Election Debate? From our Questionnaire?
The process of conducting research on candidates’ issue positions led us to notice major areas
that were largely omitted or covered with very little enthusiasm: campaign finance reform,
including the role of lobbyists and crimes committed by public officeholders; corporate
responsibility and regulation of corporations generally; poverty; human rights; education; civil
liberties and privacy generally; religion and faith issues; and the environment broadly
considered, except for global warming and “energy independence”. As the election cycle heats
up, these issues may yet come to the fore. We will discuss some of these, but begin by
14


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