Every four years the American public becomes fascinated with political polling and the presidential horse race. In fact, national match-ups between the two major party contenders are largely meaningless. That's because America conducts 50 individual state elections on November 5, 2012 with Electoral College votes being awarded to the candidate who carries each state. The candidate who gets 270 electoral votes is elected regardless of the final tally of the popular vote.
From a purely academic point of view, any pollster who excludes Libertarian Party Candidate, former New Mexico Governor,Gary Johnson, is making a methodological mistake. Putting aside the question of how many votes Johnson will get, it is safe to assume he will get some votes. Thus, not including him is unscientific and for a pollster, malpractice.
Public Policy Polling, (PPP), a Democratic leaning poll, has fairly consistently included the former two-term New Mexico governor in their state and national polling. A PPP Poll taken December 12, 2011, right after Governor Johnson seized a windfall of publicity regarding his switch to the Libertarian Party, and his pursuit of their 2012 presidential nomination -- showed Johnson at 9 percent. In subsequent national polls Johnson dipped to 7 percent, and then 6 percent, well within the poll's margin of error.
The PPP polling in swing states is far more revealing. Johnson polls 15 percent in his native New Mexico, 7 percent in Texas, 8 percent in North Carolina and 9 percent in Arizona. The internal numbers in New Hampshire are most telling. Johnson is getting 17 percent of voters between 18-29 and 13 percent of those voters who describe themselves as "very conservative" while getting 7 percent overall in the Granite state.
Then inexplicably, PPP polled Florida on June 5, 2012 and did not include Johnson in their head-to-head match-up..
Reading the early tea leaves, it is clear that Johnson has not only the potential, particularly after Ron Paul is out of the race, to score 10 percent or better nationally while having a major impact on more than a handful of swing states that are up for grabs. The idea that Johnson takes all of his votes from Republican Mitt Romney is a canard.
For every six votes Johnson takes from Romney, polls show he takes three from Obama. Should the Johnson campaign continue to stress his opposition to the war in Afghanistan, his opposition to The Patriot Act, his support of legalized marijuana and his opposition to the war on drugs, the percentage of vote that Johnson takes from Obama could increase. At the same time, Johnson's superior credibility on fiscal issues and voters skepticism about the authenticity of the Republican commitment to cutting spending and debt means Johnson will continue to draw a slightly disproportionate number of voters from the Republican Nominee.
Gallup, Rasmussen, Quinnipiac, and the others would be wise to begin including Johnson, who is likely to be on the ballot in all 50 states, in their polling. In 2000, pollsters who did not include Ralph Nader in their Florida polling confidently predicted victory in the Sunshine State for George W. Bush by a comfortable margin. They were sorry.
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