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  • A Self-Fulfilling Poll

       October 03, 2007

    Pajamas Media, they of the revolutionary tagline "all the news the MSM forgot" have a Presidential Straw Poll that you can vote in every week. However, don't go there and think that you're going to state your preference for Mike Gravel or Duncan Hunter or, god forbid, Ron Paul (and really, this is all about Ron Paul) because Pajamas Media doesn't think you should be able to vote for so called "second tier" candidates:

    NEW DEAL: Pajamas Media editors have noted that the number of weekly votes in our poll has diminished drastically from the tens of thousands cast at the outset. For months now, many readers have been complaining to us about the increasing inutility of the poll because of vote-swarming by second tier candidates. Many voters have lost interest and are not participating. Websites that had run our widget were no longer doing so.

    Something needed to change.

    Therefore, especially since the campaign itself appears to be narrowing its focus to front-running candidates, henceforth the Pajamas Media Poll will be restricted to those first tier candidates listed on the front poll page of the leading online poll aggregator Real Clear Politics. As of now, that is four candidates on the Democratic side and five on the Republican. We will change our lineup on the Sunday after RCP does, if it does.

    Dumb question: if certain candidates were winning the straw poll, how can they be second tier? They're winning. That automatically puts them in the first tier. And what is "vote-swarming"? Does that mean that a candidate's supporters organize themselves and encourage people to vote for their candidate in the poll? How is this any different from other "get out the vote" efforts? Should we downgrade candidates because of a superior grassroots organization? Of course not.

    The problem here is that the results don't fit what the editors of Pajamas Media wanted to see. And, with apologies to Johnnie Cochran, if the results don't fit, I guess you ignore it. How, uh, MSM of them. I thought the whole exciting thing about the new media was that we the people would have broader access to ideas. There would be no big media gatekeepers. Well guess what? Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

    Posted by at October 3, 2007 06:31 PM

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    #  October 4th, 2007 8:10 AM      JohnTant
    I think the issue was that in earlier polls, PM found large numbers of Paul votes that were coming from a single IP address. That's what they likely mean by "vote swarming" and it skews the poll. Rather than PM trying to create a particular outcome, I think this is instead the case of one or two "swarmers" trying to game the poll from the other side.

    I remember PM talking about this after one of the earlier GOP debates.  
    #  October 4th, 2007 8:30 AM      kris
    Then the solution is to fix the poll, not exclude candidates.  
    #  October 4th, 2007 9:17 AM      JohnTant
    Inasmuch as the poll has very little statistical value anyway, being that the sample is self-selected, it was likely easier to remove the candidates rather than spend lots of time and effort to fix an online poll that would end up being spammed again anyway.
    #  October 4th, 2007 10:46 AM      james
    I don't think it's about one or two people coming from a single IP address - that's easy enough to filter. This is more about Ron Paul and the aforementioned candidates having a strong and vocal online following. Social networking sites like reddit and digg are pretty much "all Ron Paul, all Mike Gravel, all the time." When a site that gets hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of hits per day says "go here and vote for this candidate," that does in fact skew the poll.

    As an example, consider Idol runner-up Clay Aiken - he has a strong and rabid following. If Clay Aiken were to be listed in one of these polls, I have no doubt that his loyal minions would have him topping each and every poll. That certainly wouldn't mean that he had any real shot of winning the actual Presidency.

    I visit a couple of Ron Paul support sites somewhat frequently, and it seems that they're always urging readers to go and vote in one online poll or another. "Romney is currently leading! Go put Dr. Paul over the top!" Think about it, this is akin to a group of 10,000 Ron Paul fans spotting a lone pollster on the street and then swarming him, demanding "ask me! ask me! ask me!!!"

    The worst part is that the support sites (and the campaign) then brag about these wins. That just makes them all come off looking like kooks.  
    #  October 4th, 2007 11:15 AM      kris
    That's a good point, but still - write about the story too. WHY does Paul have so much support? What's going on? Instead they, like the MSM they so disdain, ignores the story.  
    #  October 4th, 2007 12:37 PM      james
    be careful when you use terms like "so much." i think that if you try to actually quantify that supposed support, you'll find that it isn't anywhere near as large as you think it is.  
    #  October 4th, 2007 1:02 PM      kris
    I mean "so much" relative to perception - Paul's only supporters aren't crazy gun nuts holed up in shacks.

    My problem with this is that it's far too early to relegate certain candidates to the "fringe". The election is over a YEAR away. Let's spread the coverage around and let people get to know what everyone running for president believes in. There's plenty of time for that.

    Don't close that gate!  



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