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CNN Presidential Polls - Used by CPD - Shortchange an Entire Generation

Created: 05 September, 2016
Updated: 21 November, 2022
2 min read

This election season has seen groundbreaking engagement of young people from across the political spectrum. At the moment, many are looking beyond the two establishment parties to Governor Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party.

To introduce themselves to a national audience at the debates, Johnson and Stein need to reach a 15% average in a set of polls hand-picked by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

READ MORE: Fox News Poll Drastically Under-Samples Independents; 1 of 5 Polls Used by CPD

Can the engagement of young people (as well as that of older people) successfully influence enough voters to get the third-party candidates onto the debate stage? It’s possible, but they won’t be getting much help from the CNN poll -- one of the 5 used to calculate the 15% average.

In 2016, every single CNN poll for the general election has failed to adequately sample Americans aged 18-34. While other age groups have their results listed in terms of their % agreement to different questions, the CNN documentation lists “N/A” for those aged 18-34 (i.e., the Millennials).

The reason?

“Some subgroups represent too small a share of the national population to produce crosstabs with an acceptable sampling error.” Groups that are “too small” receive the “N/A.”

Read that again: CNN describes people aged 18-34 as “too small a share of the national population.”

Requests for clarification went unanswered by the CNN Polling Director.

I am left to conclude that the CNN poll either massively under-samples the largest generation in American history or quite simply doesn’t sample them at all.

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As such, contrary to claims made by the Commission on Presidential Debates, the CNN polls do not represent the national electorate.

Over the course of the year, this situation has undoubtedly disadvantaged Governor Johnson and Dr. Jill Stein. By under-sampling the younger generation, CNN has robbed third-party candidates of the free media coverage enjoyed by the so-called “major” candidacies of Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump.

Indeed, reporters regularly dispute third-party candidates’ chances in light of the poll numbers. Yet, as an article in Wired magazine claims, “the polls are all wrong.”

It’s too late to fix this extraordinary injustice. We must demand that the debate commission open the debates.

Editor’s note: If you are interested in the author’s efforts, you can visit his petition at Change.orgor if you would like to find out how to fund additional election research, go here.