Remember that 2004 poll that found more people would rather have a beer with George W. Bush than John Kerry? Those results foamed into a head of theory about “the likability factor,” dogging those who thought politicians ought to be elected based on capability rather than personality.

This election cycle, barbecue appears to be the new likability measure. An Associated Press/Yahoo! News poll finds that people “would rather barbecue burgers with Barack Obama than John McCain, by a 52 percent to 45 percent margin.”

Having Obama to a barbecue would be like a relaxed family gathering,” while McCain would turn it into something “more like a retirement party than something fun,” said 38-year-old Wesley Welbourne, a systems engineer from Washington DC. Ouch.

It strikes me that the barbecue poll may be a more incisive one than the beer poll, since raw meat and open flames are involved. In fact, maybe we should forgo voting altogether, and hold a national barbecue instead. We could argue about sauces, compare flipping techniques, and reserve a corner of the grill for Gardenburgers. At the end of the day, talk would naturally turn to politics, and we’d come to a consensus on health care and the war in Iraq in a jiffy. Come dessert time, you’d pick your cookie—McCain, Obama, or a third party—and we’d have a winner.

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