Why Excluding Third-Party Candidates From Polling is Stupid

In Colorado, says Public Policy Polling, the presidential race has tightened a bit. From a 49-43 margin in Barack Obama's favor, the race has become a 49-46 contest, with Mitt Romney gaining a little ground. But when Libertarian Gary Johnson is thrown in the mix, he polls at five percent, and turns the race into a 46-44 contest — nominally still in Obama's favor, but that's fuzzy in a poll that has a +/- 3.1 percent margin of error.

The polling firm phrases Johnson's inclusion a little oddly, saying, "We also tested an iteration of the race in Colorado including Libertarian Gary Johnson." But that's not a test — that's reality. A purely Obama vs. Romney contest is the hypothetical in most states, since Johnson is currently guaranteed a presence in 43 states, Green Party candidate Jill Stein is on the ballot in 33 states plus D.C. and Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode is on the ballot in 21 states. In some of those states, the margin betwen the two leading candidates is too wide to be affected by a percent or two here and there for a minor candidate, but this race promises to be a squeaker in a good many locales.

As a former Virginia congressman, Virgil Goode is being discussed as a complicating factor in that state, with the Washington Post pointing out that "[j]ust 2 or 3 percent of the vote going to Goode could be enough to swing the contest." Johnson obviously plays a role in Colorado, and also in his home state of New Mexico, where two terms as a popular governor have him consistently polling in the double digits (though less as election day approaches) — and also pulling more from Obama than from Romney there. (Stein doesn't yet appear to affect the outcome in a tightly contested state, though she is polling at three percent in the Obama stronghold of Massachusetts.)

The latest national Zogby poll shows a dead heat — unless you include Johnson. Writes Keith Koffler:

In a survey of 798 likely voters conducted August 31 through September 3, Zogby found that if Johnson’s name was not mentioned, Obama and Romney were basically tied, with Obama receiving 43.8 percent of the vote, Romney getting 43.5 percent, and 12.7 percent undecided.

But throw Johnson’s name in and the numbers shift toward Obama is a way that could swing what is expected to be one of the closest elections ever.

Obama now gets 42.7 percent of the vote compared to 41 percent for Romney, with 4.3 percent backing Johnson and 12 percent unsure.

True, as all too many journalists and pollsters keep telling us in their self-fulfilling way, none of the third-party candidates are poised to seriously contest the presidency this year. But they are in a position to change the way some states fall in the allocation of their electoral votes. That's going to be easy to miss for polling firms who pretend there are only two horses in the race.

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  • ||

    Screw everyone in the media. You guys are cool though.

  • Randian||

    True, as all too many journalists and pollsters keep telling us in their self-fulfilling way...

    This right here is the crux of the problem. The reason that only Obama and Romney "have a chance" is because people keep believing they are the only two who have a chance.

  • sarcasmic||

    Gary who?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Really, we'd be better off if voters regularly voted for third parties just to break the two-party duopoly. Few things have done more damage to the concept of limited government than the sense of entitlement these idiots have.

  • sarcasmic||

    The problem of course is that people think they must vote for the lesser of two evils, for fear that if they do not then the greater of two evils will win.

    They seem to ignore that the lesser of two evils is still evil.

    Personally I'm voting for GJ. I can' bring myself to vote for either of the evils.

  • Calidissident||

    Tulpa and Cenotaph won't be happy

  • Pro Libertate||

    Me, too. I have some mild temptation to vote for Romney, just because I dislike Obama so much, but my low expectations for Romney, coupled with my general distaste for the major parties means that I'll be voting for Gary Johnson.

    Here are their slogans--which is pro-liberty?

    Mitt Romney: "We Believe In America"
    Barack Obama: "Forward"
    Gary Johnson: "Live free"

  • sarcasmic||

    A vote for Romney in my state wouldn't matter anyway. Our Republican governor only won because there was a spoiler. Can't drive a mile without seeing these bumper stickers that say "61%" on them, implying that the governor isn't legit because 61% voted for someone else.
    Progressives sure are sore losers.

  • Calidissident||

    Even in a swing state, your vote is never going to decide the election. In the almost impossible event that your vote actually gave one candidate exactly one more vote than the other, the courts would decide the winner

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, people need to get some perspective and stop thinking that their vote is so goddamned important. Thinking that you can use your vote strategically is just retarded. Vote for who you want to see elected.

  • CE||

    The only chance your vote has of being counted accurately is if you vote for the candidate you like the best, regardless of his or her chances of winning. Otherwise, you might as well stay home.

  • WWNGD?||

    I am sure they were equally upset when Bill Clinton won even though more people voted for Perot and Bush combined.

  • BarryD||

    "Forward" has apparently changed to "The Government is the only thing we all belong to!"

  • Pro Libertate||

    Forward to total submission to the state?

  • ||

    It's really more like "bend forward".

  • Randian||

    In this case, I see neither one as 'lesser'.

    If you are a pure anarchist or radical libertarian, Gary Johnson's moderate libertarianism may be perceived as 'evil' as well (though I don't think that's a fair description).

  • SIV||

    Fuckin' fair tax. Johnson is as evil as the other two.

  • Randian||

    I figured you would pipe in with your one-note inanity.

  • BarryD||

    Anyone with whom I have any disagreement at all is fundamentally evil.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Gosh, I think I could live with Johnson if everything else was good. Isn't he calling for a repeal of the 16th as well?

  • SIV||

    After up to 6 years of the national sales tax. If not repealed it "expires" lol.

  • ||

    Part of the Fair Tax bill is that it would not be implemented if the 16th was not repealed. So yes in answer to your question.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Romney is obviously the lesser, and in some situations the lesser evil is the right choice. May be evil, but he's lesser. This is not one of those situations unfortunately.

  • Randian||

    Romney is obviously the lesser

    I don't think that's obvious at all.

    He criticized Obama for sticking to the timetable for withdrawal from Iraq (ditto Ryan). That's +1 evil point right there.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I think he's probably a lesser evil, mostly because Obama has been so horrifically bad. But the question is, how much lesser?

  • CE||

    Speaking of pure anarchists/radical libertarians, L. Neil Smith declined to endorse Gary Johnson, and said to vote a blank instead.

    Obviously Johnson lands somewhere between Bob Barr and Harry Browne on the libertarian scale, but Smith never liked Browne either, for reasons I couldn't quite comprehend. They both seemed like pure voluntaryists, although Browne tried to appeal to voters through results rather than through principles.

  • BarryD||

    How do you know that GJ isn't simply an additional evil?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Could be. But compared to the other two, I have a feeling he's so much less evil as to maybe be good.

  • BarryD||

    New slogan: Vote for the least of three evils!

  • CE||

    Compare the three candidates' records in office. Johnson wins hands down.

  • naql||

    Then he is a necessary evil.

  • Hyperion||

    Not so sure that only the reality of having more than 2 parties would solve the problem. Look at the Europatards. If all the parties are just the same flavor of leftism, then you are still screwed. We have to go further than just having 3 parties to solve the issue.

    Having the Libertarian party get as much votes as team red and blue would be revolutionary as far as the dircection of the country is concerned, for a while... until the Ls were infiltrated and taken over by the same power hungry sociopaths and parasites that own team read and blue.

    The only solution is to take the power and money out of political office and give it back to the people. In other words, as someone once said, the government needs to fear us, then we will have liberty.

  • Pro Libertate||

    One difference is that they are generally parliamentary. That makes a big difference.

  • Hyperion||

    I have never really studied that system to see how it might differ from our congress. So I don't really know. I just observed that in most of Europe, they have different parties but almost all are what I would view as way left of center as compared to the US.

  • Pro Libertate||

    The big difference is that weird coalitions can be formed, which control the various ministries. Here, no matter how many parties are in the legislature, there is only one controlling the executive. That means no coalition governments in any real sense.

    All that said, you have to wonder how a Congress with, say, significant representation from four parties would behave.

  • BarryD||

    Coalitions are great, IMO.

    They happen out in the open, and they can break apart and others form.

    The "coalitions" in the present two major US parties are neither openly declared, nor are they natural coalitions or often, even expedient ones. They're not really temporary, either. They can shift, but they don't just split and reform.

    I'm all for 5+ major parties, representing what their members really want, and that are forced to make deals with each other, in the sunlight, to get anywhere.

  • Zeb||

    Though if we did have more than two major parties, it seems likely that presidential elections would frequently be decided by the house. That could turn into a situation pretty close to a parliamentary one, it seems to me. You would need to put together a coalition in the house to get anyone elected president. It wouldn't quite be a parliamentary system, but it would be getting pretty close in many ways.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Once you're president, though, you can tell the coalition to pound the pavement. Prime ministers can rarely do that.

  • ||

    A fractured house would be far more likely to reign in executive power in a way that the two major parties have not attempted.

  • Cytotoxic||

    You can't blame the people for acknowledging reality.

  • Randian||

    It's a reality of their own choosing that is easily changeable.

    When it comes to the two parties, everyone is stuck in some bizarre Prisoner's Dilemma of their own making. I have more and more difficulty understanding it as the days pass.

  • BarryD||

    You're sounding a bit collectivist there, Randian.

    How have everyone made this problem for him/herself as an individual?

    Could it not be that there are some significant flaws in a large system, which was mostly built before any of us was born, and in which we all exist?

  • BarryD||

    should be "How has"

  • $park¥||

    I think this is another part of the problem. The population of this country has grown beyond the limit of our current government model. A splitting up of the states into multiple smaller countries could alleviate some of the pain. Barring that, the only way out is with a new model more suited to a larger population.

  • Randian||

    You're sounding a bit collectivist there, Randian.

    How have everyone made this problem for him/herself as an individual?

    Not literally "everyone", but many, many people.

    I get told literally every week that I am "wasting my vote". Those last three words are totally meaningless, but somehow people in my every day life derive some kind of meaning from them, and I plain don't get it.

  • BarryD||

    You ARE wasting your vote! That's totally accurate. Everyone is.

    Not sure what the alternative is, though.

  • ||

    A nice game of chess?

  • BarryD||

    Water balloon fight!

  • $park¥||

    Later. Let's play Global Thermonuclear War.

  • Randian||

    You ARE wasting your vote! That's totally accurate. Everyone is.

    If everyone is, then no one is, I would say.

  • BarryD||

    Okay. There's one person, somewhere, not wasting his or her vote, but we will never be able to tell who it is.

    Better?

  • ant1sthenes||

    Are you sure it's of their own making? Looking at the way the party bigwigs treated the delegates in both conventions, it's more and more apparent that the party leaders have outsized impact on who is chosen to represent the party in the general election.

    Those leaders in turn are often beholden to the same powerful corporatist entities (banks, agribusiness, media, energy, unions, regulatory agencies). Essentially, whichever team wins, those players get someone they can work with.

    The true believers are tools in this -- the main threat to the game is the emergence of either a powerful reform movement that captures control of a main party or a third party that becomes as powerful as a main party, either of which gives voters the option to fuck the elites at the ballot box. Corruption of the primary process and abuse of ballot access laws can only take you so far before even the apolitical realize democracy is a sham. The Akins and Warrens of the world keep the attention of the partisan masses on The External Threat rather than the betrayal of their own leadership, ensuring that every election is too important to throw away your vote, lest you indirectly support the bad guy by failing to support his main party opponent.

  • The Original Jason||

    Those leaders in turn are often beholden to the same powerful corporatist entities (banks, agribusiness, media, energy, unions, regulatory agencies).

    Bootleggers…

    The true believers are tools in this

    Baptists.

    Although I disagree with the use of the term "corporatist" — it's not at all what Corporatists in the 1930's describe. "Cronyist" is a far better term.

  • CE||

    The reality is that lots of people complain "if only we had a third choice," when in fact, they do have a third choice -- an experienced two term governor and businessman with a proven record of voting down spending and tax hikes, who also seems pretty good on social issues.

    Gary Johnson is not some little known Congressman or self-taught economics author or computer programmer or gun rights activist or libertarian purist -- he's a legitimately qualified candidate who would likely appeal to a significant percentage of the American population if given a chance.

  • johnl||

    I refuse to vote for a man whose name does not begin with B or P.

  • Zeb||

    What really amazes me is that (according to polls, anyway) people seem to want less to vote for a third party candidate as the election approaches. How can seeing all of the shit that we are going to be subjected to between now and November make anyone want to vote for one of these assholes? It seems to me that the small time candidates would become more popular as the election approaches and the Big Two act like assholes and spoiled children. Fuck those guys.

  • Randian||

    What really amazes me is that (according to polls, anyway) people seem to want less to vote for a third party candidate as the election approaches.

    As the election gets closer, people don't choose the 'luxury' of voting for someone other than the TEAMs. A TEAM vote is a 'necessity'.

    I don't get it either.

  • $park¥||

    Why do people pick a favorite sports team? It's the same reason. If you personally pick someone to win, and that person does win, you get a rush of happiness from knowing that you picked a winner. For some small amount of time it makes you feel special. It's an evolutionary reward that's been around for a long, long time.

  • BarryD||

    I've never been overly attached to a sports team, even if it's a favorite. If I know someone on the team, that's different, though. I still understand that the other team also has trained and wants to win.

    But if I have MONEY on a team, well...

  • Randian||

    I acknowledge sports for what it is: the expression of natural tribalistic instincts that exists in a mostly voluntary state of free exchange (stadium subsidies and whatnot notwithstanding, natch).

    Sports is illogical but it's meant to be so. Politics should be governed entirely by logic, on the other hand.

  • $park¥||

    When survival is at stake, logic goes out the window. That's why each Team's message is carefully crafted to make you feel that your survival is at stake with every election.

  • BarryD||

    Stadium subsidies (and a lot of other subsidies, like tax-funded colleges operating an enormous D-league for the NFL at no charge) really turn me off, though.

    I am more of a participant than a spectator, too. Sports, to me, are things I do, not watch.

  • Randian||

    Stadium subsidies (and a lot of other subsidies, like tax-funded colleges operating an enormous D-league for the NFL at no charge) really turn me off, though.

    It no more turns me off than corn subsidies do from foods made by ADM or with corn syrup.

    The subsidies are not the essence of the matter, and unless you politicize everything (which would be exhausting), you should only focus on the essences.

    See also: Chick-Fil-A. The essence of Chick-fil-A is to serve delicious chicken sandwiches. About 1% of the identity of that entity is tied up with antigay causes. That 1% is not essential, though, and I am in no mood to politicize every facet of life.

  • johnl||

    Chicken and pickles on a wet sponge is a delicious sandwich?

  • $park¥||

    I love watching football, and I'm a big Patriots fan. Having said that, I don't have my house festooned with signed jerseys and pictures of the players. I don't have my kids draped in official NFL team apparel. And if they lose, I just think better luck next time. It's one of the reasons I'm scared of Bostonians.

  • BarryD||

    Hey!

    You're totally ignoring the Barr-Sheehan ticket, you sexist mouthpiece for the Koch brothers!

    http://roseanneforpresident2012.org/

  • Hyperion||

    They should film their campaign. It would make a great documentary/comedy.

  • BarryD||

    More like a reality show. Done to death and unbearable.

  • jdtuccille||

    I have to admit, I had no idea Barr was still running after the Green Party turned her down.

  • BarryD||

    Well, there is balance to the world. The Green Party needs some political party that even they can call nutty, pathetic, unlikeable hippie throwbacks.

  • Hyperion||

    It's a very strange, I have yet to figure it out, but I know a couple of greens and they are way closer to my views on most issues than any Dems that I know.

  • Randian||

    I was looking at the Roseanne Barr Peace and Freedom Platform and I agreed with about 30-40% of the policy positions, even though they come from deeply flawed premises.

    I doubt that I would agree with much more than 10% of the Major Parties' Platitudes.

  • BarryD||

    Not strange at all. Democrats in 2012 have pretty much jumped the shark, intellectually. Many seem downright insane. Seriously.

    Anyone who is still thinking for him/herself is going to come closer to the views of someone else who is still thinking, when the alternative is bizarro-world propaganda cut-and-paste.

  • Hyperion||

    The 2 main issues that we agreed on were WOD and foreign policy. Never have discussed economy with them, but I bet that wouldn't go so well.

  • $park¥||

    No matter who runs from or from what party, the choice will always be a matter of who is least evil. What would be nice is not having to choose evil at all. The problem is, human nature will never get that far.

  • Hyperion||

    I think that most people are not evil. The problem is that most people who want power to control other people are evil. Unfortunately that power to control seems to be the main reason people go into politics.

  • $park¥||

    Humans are very like every other animal on the planet. Dominance is a driving factor in survival. It's just the way it is.

  • BarryD||

    Yes. Libertarianism, in some ways, is the only philosophy that takes what we've learned about Evolution and spontaneous order into account. But sometimes, libertarian thinking doesn't account for Evolution at all.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    But sometimes, libertarian thinking doesn't account for Evolution at all.

    How so?

  • BarryD||

    Libertarian thinkers have not come up with a real political system, or an imaginary one, that mitigates for the fact that "dominance is a driving factor in survival" per above.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    Libertarian thinkers have not come up with a real political system, or an imaginary one, that mitigates for the fact that "dominance is a driving factor in survival" per above.

    You could say that voluntarianism somewhat mitigates the fact of dominance. By banding together to oppose a stronger foe, each individual is more apt to survive. Also, many libertarians call for keeping power away from people who would use it to dominate others. Whether this would work in actually or not, you are probably closer to the truth that it would not. As John has said, there are always "strong men" who would use force to get what they want. Franz Oppenheimer spelled this out pretty clearly in his book Origins of the State.

  • BarryD||

    "many libertarians call for keeping power away from people who would use it to dominate others"

    Right. We just haven't figured out how.

    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress ends somewhat sadly, when you see that even Heinlein couldn't imagine a world that could sustain a real libertarian ethic past the frontier stage.

    Surely Heinlein is not all-knowing. And I'm not saying we couldn't come up with anything. I just don't see libertarians really doing so -- not that I've come up with it, either.

    Those who have tried to lay out principles, say Shermer, simply lay out something that looked sort of like early America. We know how that turned out.

    And stuff like "A robust military for protection of our liberties from attacks by other states. and A potent police for protection of our freedoms from attacks by other people within the state." are ill-defined, certainly not clearly differentiated from what we now have, and arguably less libertarian than early America.

  • Ptah-Hotep||

    Right. We just haven't figured out how.

    This is the problem with any political economy. Human nature being what it is, I do not know how you get around this problem.

  • ||

    A purely Obama vs. Romney contest is the hypothetical in most states, since Johnson is currently guaranteed a presence in 43 states

    Ummm, that link shows Johnson on the ballot in Hawaii. As the Chair of the LP of Hawaii, I can assure you that the Office of Elections has not yet certified that the paperwork we submitted twice (once for National, once for State) has been accepted as sufficient and Johnson absolutely will be on the ballot.

  • BarryD||

    Will Romney be on the ballot in Hawaii?

  • Randian||

    We're waiting on the state of Deseret to release his Birth Certificate.

  • CE||

    Unfortunately, the polls excluding Johnson are more accurate, since the real election in November will come after two more months of the network news programs, the cable news programs, right wing talk radio, NPR, and every major newspaper and newspaper website pretending that it's a two-man race.

  • ||

    Obama now gets 42.7 percent of the vote compared to 41 percent for Romney, with 4.3 percent backing Johnson and 12 percent unsure.

    12% unsure and undecideds break away from the incumbent.

    Pretty sure Romney has this wrapped up. With or without Johnson.

  • ||

    By the way 3rd parties tend to do worse in swing states.

    In other words Johnson votes will be mostly made in safe states.

  • John Balzer||

    Republicans fear Gary Johnson and are attempting to get him off the ballot in battleground states. As of the writing of this article is in on the ballot in all 50 states. Jill Stein and Virgil Goode are joke candidates. Gary Johnson's national polling is also higher than mantioned. He is close within reach of the amount needed to get into the national debate. Libertarians, especially Ron Paul supporters are feeling a vacuum since Dr. Paul was shafted by the GOP and blackmailed by Romney. Gary Johnson is in a key position to take the torch of liberty to the finish line.

  • LibertarianAmazon||

    Amen.

  • loving||

  • LibertarianAmazon||

    I think journalists hate reporting on Gary Johnson because he has never terrorized or eaten a dog, doesn't bull shit, doesn't have some controversial past of registering as a foreign student at a university in order to get a free education by fraud from the U.S. government nor belongs to a cult that wears magic underwear and thinks our souls are from a different planet like some Victorian age twist on Scientology.

    How boring is it to have a competent candidate with a track record of doing what he promises and double digit job growth rate.

    Journalists want to play two ineffective politicians off each other, because acknowledging Gary Johnson would mean game over and everyone would wake up and vote for someone who actually has a clue. There would be no news in two boobs competing against a competent and honest person.

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