Politicians question poll accuracy

By SpencerRoush

One Republican candidate running for President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat in the 2010 election is raising questions about the accuracy of polls and how the results are being disseminated to the public. In fact, many Web sites on both sides of the partisan aisle, such as DemocraticUnderground.com and FreeRepublic.com, claim to be leery of some polling results because of favoring one political party over another or producing faulty results through poor questioning.

As a result, poll numbers call for a degree of scrutiny from every reader and journalist who use the data for an article. It brings up a question of just how accurate the polls are or if they are trying to skew public opinion.  Andy Martin, a perennial candidate running for Senate, called a few Illinois polls “bogus,” including Rasmussen Reports, Patrick Hughes’ personal poll and Mark Kirk’s poll.

Kirk and Hughes are both running against Martin for a place in the U.S. Senate.

On Oct. 12, 2008, the New York Times published an article on its Web site that states Martin was involved in many political controversies, including having been a primary source of rumors surrounding Obama’s citizenship.  Some say he poses a valid question however: What’s the threshold a political candidate needs to pass in order to be included in polls?

According to Martin, he has been left out of Rasmussen Reports’ polls, which makes him look like a non-contender. Martin said he is the only other candidate besides Kirk who has ever run for office and should be considered an option in polling questions.

Martin said he has sent two letters, one in August and another in October, to Scott Rasmussen, founder of the polling agency, questioning why he wasn’t named as an option in the polling questions.

Mark Kirk was the only Republican candidate who was mentioned during those month’s polls. But other Rasmussen Reports polling questions featured many more candidates as an option that aren’t very well-known.

“Rasmussen came out with a poll, but he doesn’t poll on any of the other Republicans [except for Kirk],” Martin said.

Kent Redfield, political science professor at the University of Illinois Springfield, said it’s possible that more Republican candidates were included in the poll, but had such a low percentage that they were grouped together in the “other” category.

According to Martin, the lawsuit he claimed he is going to file against Rasmussen for performing “rigged” polls is “in process.” He explained this issue was not a priority in the past weeks, but it is now.

Christopher Mooney, political science professor at the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois Springfield, said he doesn’t think Martin has a legal leg to stand on, but continued to say he wasn’t a lawyer.

“Anybody can sue anybody for anything in this country,” Mooney said. “The

question is, do they win?”

Rasmussen did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Martin said the Rasmussen polls make it look as though Kirk is running unopposed or against someone who isn’t well-known enough to include, which he said isn’t true.

According to Mooney,  Martin is concerned with the polling results because the data is being printed in the newspaper without the mention of his name, which he said makes it look like he doesn’t exist.

“When you’ve got giant fields, they often times will only include the so-called serious candidates and that’s usually defined as those who meet a certain threshold on the last poll,” Mooney said.

“It’s kind of a catch-22. You can’t get visibility if you’re not in the poll, but if you don’t have any  visibility, they don’t put your name in the poll,” Redfield said.

Mooney explained that it is not proven that polls affect how voters think about certain candidates, but “some of the lore is that there might be a bandwagon effect.”

Kristinn Taylor, spokeswoman for FreeRepublic.com, an online grass roots gathering place for Independents to analyze and expose political corruption, said not including some candidates in a poll has always been a problem.  But pollers have to determine which candidate is worth the time and energy.

Taylor said there are a lot of “vanity candidates” who run for office that have no chance of winning and are doing it more for the image.

Taylor added that Rasmussen Reports is usually accurate and trustworthy.

As for his main opponents Kirk and Hughes, Martin said he was not included in their personal polling data either.

“How can you ignore the big gorilla in the room or the bear?” Martin said. “It’s whatever you want to call me, or worse.”