“Who’s going to win?” It was the question on everyone’s mind Tuesday night at the Herbst Theatre, where World Affairs Council CEO & President Jane Wales spoke in conversation with “America’s Pollster General,” John Zogby, President & CEO of Zogby International. Jane posed the question to divine his insights on the upcoming Presidential election this November. Since 1966, John Zogby has been polling both domestically and abroad on the most pressing political issues of the day. He correctly predicted almost all of the 2006 U.S. Senate races and was also credited with most accurately calling the Iran election this past year.
In response to Ms. Wale’s opening question, Mr. Zogby painted a picture of the two candidates as he sees it. He described Senator Obama as the new face of America’s future, a true globalist representing a new generation of leadership – in other words, a Jack Kennedy. Zogby painted Senator McCain as a face from two generations past, a man who stands for sacrifice, patriotism, and country above all else, who knows the ins and outs of Washington, and is running against his own party – a Harry Truman figure. Zogby compared these traits to what Americans claim to be looking for in a president, data that he has from a recent poll where he asked Americans to list what they want most in a president – first on this list was a problem solver, followed by someone capable of managing the government, working across the aisle, and possessing strong personal values (not Christian values – which ranked last in the poll).
Wales probed Zogby on his findings of international opinions of the United States and its politics, and the implications for foreign policy. Zogby posited that the response to Hurricane Katrina will prove to be a more defining moment in U.S. history than 9/11 for it showed how deeply broken our system is – and he believes that our invasion of Iraq was that defining moment for the international community – revealing our broken and reckless system to the entire world. He described the invasion as a “screw-up of massive proportions” in terms of international opinion, and compared the surge to a “wonderful game of whack-a-mole” – regardless of official statements from Washington, the surge is not succeeding. Any reduction in violence has happened because the Sunni leadership outside of Baghdad has made their peace for purely personal reasons, unrelated to the surge. In a recent poll he conducted in the Middle East, Zogby found that Iraq, Abu Ghraib, and Palestine were the most significant outrages in opinion of the U.S., and that “betrayal” and “humiliation” are the two words that best describe the relationship between our two regions. Zogby concluded with a call for a deep commitment to broader public diplomacy – a commitment of money, time, visa programs, internships, exchanges – to make a real effort to present the best of this country to the rest of the world, while we still can. A sad and sobering note, and one that we all hope can be repaired with the next administration, whoever it may be. Even John Zogby, pollster general, can’t call this one.
Listen to the program here.