For two months running, Townhall online news magazine and commentary site has been running an online poll for the GOP presidential nomination. Sarah Palin has won two months in a row. Ron Paul finished second.
Caffeinated Thoughts, at the end of 2010, ran a poll for Conservative of the Year. We made it clear that it was not just a presidential poll but open to any conservatives. I am pretty certain none of us here at CT took it too seriously. It is what our readers and those who found us on the internet thought. (Paul won that one, too.)
Last week I posted a parody mocking, not Ron Paul supporters, but those that think online polls or straw polls can give any indication of a candidate’s strength among the general populace.
Then along comes Townhall. Today I got an email. Two things I observed. First, this is what is found at the bottom of the “polling place”:
” Submitting your vote entitles you to receive conservative alerts from Townhall.com”
In other words, you must give an email address so that we can email you stuff. I don’t have any problem with the strategy, but it effects results of the poll. If folks don’t want emails from Townhall, don’t bother voting.
More importantly was this gem in the email:
“With rumors flying about potential candidates officially announcing, this could be a very exciting month for GOP presidential politics. Maybe some candidates are using this poll as a factor on whether they will run or not. It’s up to you to show your support to let them know that you want them to be the next President of the United States!”
I am not sure I would vote for any candidate who used “this poll as a factor on whether they will run or not”. I would not want to belong to any club willing to have me as a member.
Straw polls aren’t much better. Even the touted Ames Straw Poll doesn’t tell you much. Romney won it in 2007. McCain finished somewhere below Ron Paul. That poll takes huge amounts of money just to compete. First, it requires tickets in order to vote. Campaigns often buy a huge amount of tickets to give away. Second, rental spots for land, I understand, cost between $25,000 and $100,000 each, just to set up. And if you are going to have roller coasters, merry-go-rounds, and ferris wheels, you’ll need that much land. If it seems more like a circus than a way to choose a president, it is.
Just for the record, I’d say the same thing if Mike Huckabee won a straw poll or online poll.