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How “Non-Opinion” Polls Drive Down Third Party Numbers and Facilitate Debate Exclusion

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This week, the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates announced what polls it will utilize in excluding candidates from its debates.

The CPD says candidates like the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein must get 15 percent in polls conducted by “five national public opinion polling organizations” — ABC/Washington Post, CBS/New York Times, CNN/Opinion Research Corporation, Fox News, and NBC/Wall Street Journal.

Not only — as several have correctly argued — is the 15 percent threshold arbitrary and exclusionary, but these polls don’t actually ask voter preferences at all.

They all ask “If the presidential election were being held today for whom would you vote?” or some minor variation of that.

Who you want or prefer and what you would do in the voting booth may be very different things. These “public opinion polls” don’t actually measure opinion — they are a non-opinion polls. They ask a false hypothetical regarding a future action.

A better public opinion question would be: “Who do you want to be president” or “Who do you prefer to be president?” or “Who is your first choice to be president?”

By contrast, the question that the CPD relies on from these media organizations — if held today, who would you vote for — is a tactical question. As has become increasingly clear, there are many people who would like Gary Johnson or Jill Stein to be president. However, many who fear Trump or Clinton are now planning on voting for Clinton or Trump.

Each of the dominant candidates is using fear of the other to prevent public opinion from manifesting itself. Our voting system puts voters in a bind, making it difficult for them to vote their true preference.

Read the full article here.

Editor’s note: This article originally published on Vote Pact’s blog. Republished with permission. To learn more about Vote Pact visit the group’s website.

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