More Americans are clamoring for change in the upcoming 2016 presidential election than they were in the "Hope and Change" year of 2008, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll....The poll says that 59% want a president "who will bring greater changes to the current policies," while 38% want "a more experienced and tested person even if he or she brings fewer changes to the current policies."
In the poll, 59 percent of all voters prefer a candidate who will bring greater changes to current policies, even if he or she is less experienced and tested -- up from 55 percent who said this in July 2008 during the general-election contest between Barack Obama and John McCain.
But do you know when people really wanted change? In the summer of 1988, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll:
Poll respondents said by a 2-to-1 margin that it is time for the nation to change direction rather than follow the course set by President Reagan.Poll respondents also, at the time, favored Michael Dukakis by 15 points over George H.W. Bush.
We know how that one turned out.
And no, I don't think it's because Reagan said, at the 1988 convention as he was passing the torch to Bush, "And now we hear talk that it's time for a change. Well, ladies and gentlemen, another friendly reminder: We are the change." I think it's because voters offer opinions when pollsters ask them to, but those opinions aren't necessarily what motivates their votes. Bush turned the '88 election around by successfully painting Michael Dukakis as a freakish liberal traitor to all that's pure and decent in America, a flag-disdaining, criminal-coddling, military-averse New England egghead who wasn't fit to be around decent people. Maybe voters thought they wanted change for most of 1988, but by the time Bush's thuggish campaign got through with Dukakis, what voters wanted most was to drive Dukakis from public life.
That's how elections go in America -- campaign narratives decide what voters care about, not preexisting ways of categorizing candidates. It's quite possible that voters will tell pollsters that they want change and then pick Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush as the parties' candidates. It's also quite possible that Hillary and Scott Walker will get the nominations, yet voters who say now that they want change even if it means a less experienced president will vote for Hillary anyway. We don't know what will matter to voters. It might be change. But it could be anything.