Ralph Nader topped Bill Clinton in a presidential preference poll published in the July-August 1996 issue of Utne Reader. The Green Party candidate garnered 21 percent of the vote from more than 1,500 Utne readers and Cafe Utne users who responded to the survey. Clinton received 15 percent, while Republican Party nominee Bob Dole picked up a paltry 2 percent, trailing Senator Bill Bradley, Representative Pat Schroeder, and Hillary Clinton, each of whom pulled 10 percent. Meanwhile, Reform Party candidate Ross Perot drew only 1 percent.
In other results, a vast majority (76 percent) of the respondents reported that they’d had it with the two-party system and would vote for a third-party candidate; 46 percent said they would give up megamalls for a more human world; and 31 percent singled out “moral and spiritual decay” as the biggest issue facing the nation today.
Support for a third-party alternative partly explains Nader’s popularity, but his reputation as an unflinching opponent of corporate America also struck a powerful chord with respondents, who clearly value leaders who mean what they say and say what they mean. More than a third of them (36 percent) said the key attribute they look for in a leader is “courage of convictions”; another 23 percent said they demand “personal integrity.”
Nader outpolled Clinton in all age categories, but was particularly strong among 31- to 50-year-olds, drawing nearly twice as many votes from that group as the president. Only among voters aged 50 and over did Clinton compete favorably with Nader.
As expected, Utne readers see beyond the issues the mainstream media tirelessly trumpet. Only 8 percent of the respondents, for instance, cited crime as the nation’s number one problem, and such issues as corporate downsizing and the budget crisis drew little attention. In addition to the moral and spiritual crisis already mentioned, respondents said they were mostly concerned about the environment (24 percent) and racial tension (15 percent), while campaign finance reform and corporate domination of society were among the issues that received write-in votes.
But what would readers give up for a better world? Beyond megamalls, not much. Only 21 percent of the respondents said they would be willing to live in a world without cars, while a mere 13 percent said they would forgo quarter-pounders with cheese. And life without fresh fruit and vegetables year round seemed simply beyond the comprehension of all but the most selfless respondents. In fact, dozens of respondents (particularly those in their 20s) said they’d give up everything for a more human world except fresh fruit and vegetables.
To improve their own communities, our readers suggested a variety of measures, such as providing better public transportation, curbing development, banning handguns, and getting rid of cars (presumably those belonging to someone else), but, true to form, they said they value human interaction above all else. Thought it was phrased in various ways—as a call for block parties, neighborhood clean-up, community gardens—the most common response was “I’d get to know my neighbors.” One woman in Duluth, Minnesota, was more specific, however. The one thing she said she’d change was the number of available single men. “The only way women can get guys to go out with them [here] is to set food out in a dish and move it a little closer each day,” she wrote.
Survey results prepared by associate editor Joshua Glenn and managing editor Craig Cox, with research assistance from Patricia Cich, Tim Diesch, Kelly Munson, and Rebecca Scheib.