Polls show your presidential pick might surprise you

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Think you know who'll get your presidential vote in November 2008?


Take the "Select a Candidate" presidential survey


You may want to think again.

An Internet survey developed by Minnesota Public Radio that lets you see how your views align with your candidate of choice is surprising many potential voters.

"It did not support my pre-test [Joe] Biden choice, but the result it gave me was right on the mark," says Bob Havrilla, 59, of the North Side. "It was one of the best polls I have ever run into."

The survey asks each respondent his or her views on 15 issues, including the war in Iraq, immigration, abortion and the death penalty, as well as the importance of each issue. Then, it ranks how each presidential candidate -- Democrat and Republican alike -- aligns with a respondent's views.

Mr. Havrilla is supporting Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., but the survey indicated his views were most in line with those of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.

"I do have this Libertarian streak," he says. "So, it wasn't a surprise he scored so high on my poll. If I was a Republican, I would be favoring him."

Mr. Havrilla's survey results had Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., and Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, tied for second, then Mr. Biden, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico tied for third.

"I put Dodd and Biden in the same category, but give the nod to Biden for his foreign affairs [experience] and [his stance on the] environment," Mr. Havrilla says. "Really, my top three would be more deserving of my support if I thought they were viable candidates, but I don't think Dodd, Kucinich or Paul are."

Minnesota Public Radio started doing Select a Candidate presidential surveys in 2004 and updates the survey if candidates views on issues change, says Jennifer Haugh, the station's communications manager. More than 117,000 unique users have taken the survey since it was posted in August. The radio station also has done Select a Candidate surveys for some Minnesota statewide races.

WQAD News Channel 8 in Moline, Ill., serving the quad cities of Illinois and Iowa, has a shorter and slightly altered version of the Minnesota Public Radio Select a Candidate survey up on its Web site. The WQAD version has received more than 6.3 million hits since it was first posted three months ago.

"What I love about the test is that it peels away the personality factor, which tends to dominate so many people's decision-making process," said Leigh Geramanis, WQAD's news director. "It has tremendous potential for giving us a more informed electorate."

David Primm, who likes Mr. Biden's views on the war in Iraq and alternative energy sources, took both versions of the survey, and Mr. Biden came out on top on both of them.

"I thought it was a pretty clever way to see what the candidates have to offer," says Mr. Primm, 31, of Regent Square. "I think the Minnesota Public Radio one was better, a little more in-depth."

Mr. Dodd and Mr. Edwards were second and third for him on the Minnesota Public Radio survey, while Mr. Edwards and Mr. Kucinich were second and third for him on the WQAD version.

"I was a little surprised," Mr. Primm said. "I do like John Edwards, but he comes across a little wishy-washy, such a pie-in-the-sky candidate."

Beverly Spagnolo would like to see Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., as the next president.

"It would be really good to have a woman president," says Ms. Spagnolo, 56, of Bellevue. "I think it's about time, but I don't know whether the United States is ready for a woman."

She also preferred the longer, Minnesota Public Radio survey.

"The first one who came up for me was Chris Dodd, and I thought, 'I don't know a thing about this guy,' " she says.

Mr. Dodd, Mr. Edwards and Mr. Kucinich tied for first in Ms. Spagnolo's survey, with the same point level. Mrs. Clinton came in next and was only a point below the first three.

On the WQAD version of the survey, Mrs. Clinton came out No. 1 for Ms. Spagnolo, with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., coming in second.

Carrie Hahn, a registered Democrat who is supporting Mr. Paul, had him come out on top in both surveys.

Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Kucinich were second and third in her Minnesota Public Radio survey, and Mr. Kucinich came up second on the WQAD version.

"Huckabee, I was surprised about," says Ms. Hahn, 41, of Mt. Lebanon. "I'm from Cleveland, and I have known Kucinich for a long time and have followed some of his beliefs. He's a Democrat and I've always been a Democrat, but for me, [with] Ron Paul, it's the first time I've been interested in a Republican."

Ms. Hahn already has forwarded the survey to friends, who've found their results surprising.

"If you go in with an idea of who you're going to vote for, this will help you solidify that," Mr. Primm says. "If you have no idea, it can help you decide."

Your Web browser software doesn't support frames, but you can visit Select A Candidate??? at www.selectacandidate.org.

L.A. Johnson can be reached at ljohnson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3903.


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