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Gary Johnson vs. Scott Rasmussen: The voters lose

by James A. Hamilton Friday, Aug. 24, 2012 at 4:26 AM

As we move toward the hype and hoopla of the Republican National Convention in Tampa next week and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte early next month, The American Pundit Writing Assignment for the second half of August focuses on the condition of political reporting in United States:

Gary Johnson vs. Sco...
94237882-gary-johnson.jpg, image/jpeg, 609x480

As we move toward the hype and hoopla of the Republican National Convention in Tampa next week and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte early next month, The American Pundit Writing Assignment for the second half of August focuses on the condition of political reporting in United States:

Do the media place too much emphasis on the superficial aspects of politics at the expense of meaningful, investigative coverage? Or do you think full coverage of stage-managed events – such as the upcoming Republican and Democratic conventions – is also necessary to keep the voting public as informed as possible? How could media coverage of the campaigns and candidates be improved? Weigh in with your say by registering here.

In a political media climate largely driven by polling results, who or what a polling firm decides to include in its polls can influence wider media coverage of the candidates or issues, which affects the vote totals. And just like CNN, Fox or other media outlets, professional pollsters sometimes get it wrong. But unlike news organizations that readily correct their mistakes, pollsters can be more stubborn.

Rasmussen plays word games

The most recent example of a major mistake by a high-profile pollster is Scott Rasmussen’s unjustifiable justification for omitting Johnson from his firm’s polling. "We have concluded that the most accurate measure of the Obama-Romney race is to leave Johnson out of the mix,” Rasmussen wrote on his website earlier this month.

Rasmussen also knows that Johnson is not your typical third party candidate. Maybe that’s why he alluded to accuracy in measuring the “Obama-Romney race” rather than “the presidential race.” Yes, it is more accurate measure of a race between two people to only include two names. But the 2012 presidential race features three, not two, viable candidates for the White House.

A slogan on the Rasmussen website further confirms the pollster’s intricate knowledge of the symbiotic relationship between polls and the news: “If it’s in the News, it’s in our Polls.” With a slogan like that, Rasmussen obviously knows that his polls do, in fact, help drive coverage. Still, he has made the decision to keep voters in the dark rather than shining an honest light on the full spectrum of the options this November.

Johnson’s eight years as governor of New Mexico (1995-2003) give him more executive experience than President Obama, Vice President Biden, presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney and would-be VP Paul Ryan combined. Think about that irrefutable fact for a few moments, and then ask yourself a question: Has the two-party system so corrupted American politics that the most qualified challenger to the incumbent is left “out of the mix”?

Despite despicable ballot-suppression tactics against the Libertarian ticket in several states, Johnson and running mate Jim Gray likely will be on the ballot in all 50 states, with Johnson as arguably the most-qualified “third party” presidential candidate since ex-president Teddy Roosevelt ran on the Bull Moose ticket in 1912.

Johnson is more qualified than…

Johnson is more qualified to be president than Texas billionaire businessman H. Ross Perot, who was included in 1992 polling (and the ’92 debates) even after suspending his campaign for a time that summer. Perot pulled in about 19 percent of the popular vote.

Johnson is more qualified than John Anderson, a Republican representative who failed in his bid to win the 1980 Republican nomination and turned independent in his presidential quest. Polls by Gallup and other organizations included Anderson until October, when he began dropping into single digits against GOP nominee Ronald Reagan and Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter. In fact, Reagan and Anderson squared off in a one-on-one debate in early October with Carter refusing to participate. Anderson's numbers dipped after the debate, so Reagan and Carter faced off just a week before the election. Reagan won in a landslide, with Anderson ended up registering 6.6 percent of the popular vote.

And there can be absolutely no doubt at all that Johnson is more qualified to be president than Alabama’s segregationist governor George Wallace, who won 46 electoral votes with 8.6 percent of the popular vote in 1968, when Richard Nixon squeaked by sitting Vice President Hubert Humphrey. There were no presidential debates between 1964 and 1976.

Why is Rasmussen preventing the American people from learning more about their choices in November?

To his credit, Rasmussen stated that if “some other candidate” begins registering more than 4-6 percent, he may consider including Johnson. But Rasmussen also must know that simply including any candidate’s name in his polls would elevate the candidate’s numbers. For now, Rasmussen and other pollsters can hide behind circular logic and tricky linguistics while pretending to serve the public interest. But as more American voters begin to realize that Johnson is, in fact, “some other candidate,” Rasmussen may have no choice but to replace his catch-all phrase with a real name.

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