Polling bias hurts Libertarians

Did 2016 election polls provide reliable information about who American voters wanted to be President of the United States?

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which is a bipartisan organization staffed entirely by Republicans and Democrats, decided to use polling to determine who gets to be included in the general election debates. That’s probably a good idea — if the polling is impartial and accurate, and if they set a minimum percentage for inclusion that is fair and reasonable.

But this is not what the CPD did.

Four presidential candidates were on the ballot in enough states to potentially win 270 electoral votes, the minimum needed to win the election. The CPD picked five polls, most of which did not include all four candidates in the opening question: “Whom do you support for President?” According to numerous reports received by the Johnson–Weld 2016 campaign, respondents who tried to select “Gary Johnson” were denied this choice, or the call was terminated.

Polls that did allow the Libertarian nominee to be selected buried his name deep in the survey questions. Anyone who wanted to vote for Johnson had to be patient and endure frustration to stay on the call.

This lowered Johnson’s poll numbers, making it virtually impossible for him to reach the CPD’s high, 15 percent threshold.

It gets worse.

Some of the pollsters who included Johnson under-sampled the responses of two large groups: millennials and voters registered “independent.” At times, Gov. Johnson was polling second in these groups, just behind Democrat Clinton and ahead of Republican Trump.

One CNN poll, which put Johnson at seven percent, left millennials out of the poll altogether. Had CNN included them, the poll would have shown him at more than double that amount, which might have won him a golden ticket into the debates.

CNN’s excuse was that millennials are hard to sample accurately because they use cell phones more. But CNN certainly had the resources to make extra calls and ensure sound poll results.

In the end, only Trump and Clinton were included in the presidential debates. Was this an accident, or was it intentional?

Respected polls showed that between 57 and 62 percent of American voters wanted Gov. Gary Johnson included in the debates. The CPD ignored them.

Had Johnson been included in the three debates, he might well have been competitive with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The CPD and its biased polls cost Libertarians — and the American people — a say in filling the nation’s highest office.

Misleading polls must be replaced with ones that reliably reflect the will of the people. Getting the truth from pollsters is key to electing Libertarians and to realizing a resurgence of individual liberty.

Above all, the CPD needs to be shut down. and fair criteria needs to be established for debate inclusion that reflects the will of the people.

Steve Kerbel, founder of Truth in Polling, and Michael Cloud, author of Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion, contributed to this article.

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