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Steve Vancore: Wyllie fails to meet polling threshold to qualify for debate

On Wednesday, there will be a televised live debate between Charlie Crist and Rick Scott — and possibly Adrian Wyllie.

Wyllie is suing to participate under the presumption that he has met the threshold of 15 percent in polls set by the debate organizers.

Did he make it?

This is not a legal analysis of the offer made by the Florida Press Association and Leadership Florida, nor is it an assessment of the wisdom of making such an invitation. It is simply an assessment of whether Wyllie has met the mark.

In my estimation, he has not.

A search of each of the publicly reported polls shows several things:

  • Recent aggregations (see Huffington Post, and their polling aggregator, which tracks over 20 pollsters) have Wyllie sitting at 6.3 percent — far from the 15 percent mark.
  • Of the most recent polls released (UNF, 0ptimus, PPP, and Survey-USA), Wyllie is averaging 9.2 percent.
  • Only the 0ptimus poll has him at 13 percent. And this poll, when you add the margin of error, could be seen as the one that gets him in.

Let’s pause and take a look at the 0ptimus poll and briefly at 0ptimus itself.

According to its website, the company is not a polling outfit. Well, they are, sort of, in much the same way that any group of smart young entrepreneurial politicos can develop an instrument, and commission a large number of robo-polls.

They appropriately disclose that they use new and innovative techniques to poll, but their poll must be taken with a full shaker of salt. Call me old school, but as someone who has spent a very long time developing stable methodologies in a rapidly changing world, I am hesitant to embrace unproven science when it comes to public opinion surveys.

There were several problems with their poll, most notably the fact that they do not include cell phones in their sample. They claim to use very large samples to accommodate that problem, but that doesn’t correct a sampling error, it only compounds it.

I found that poll to be especially noteworthy in that it had a 10-point differential in base support for both Scott and Crist from every other poll we have seen.  In light of these concerns, we simply must view the 0ptimus poll as an outlier.

But there is even a bigger problem with the 0ptimus poll and Wyllie’s argument that he should participate in the debate. According to news reports, Wyllie was supposed to hit the 15 percent mark by Sept. 30.

Further, I believe Wyllie gets an artificial bump in these types of polls simply because the respondent is given information that he or she will not get during the actual voting process. As the 0ptimus methodology properly discloses, they describe Adrian Wyllie as a “Libertarian” — which he is. But he will appear on the ballot as “Adrian Wyllie (LPF)” — and most voters will not know what “LPF” stands for. “Libertarian” is meaningful – pro or con — to many voters; “LPF” is not.

If you remove the 0ptimus poll, Wyllie loses his one lifeline and the aggregators push him back deeper into single digits.

Of interest, the recent New York Times/CBS News/YouGov poll does not list either Wyllie or his party affiliation in their recent tracker. They have “other” at 1 percent and “unsure” at 8 percent. If you give Wyllie all of those votes, he still falls short of the mark.

This is not to say that he and other candidates do not deserve a voice — he does and they do. This is a matter of opinion and this is my opinion. But as the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once quipped, we are not entitled to our own facts. To claim that Wyllie is polling at 15 percent, or even close to that figure, is simply not fact.

As an editorial aside, one must find at least a small dose of irony in the fact that Wyllie — a less-government-in-our-lives Libertarian — is asking that same government to intervene on his behalf and force two private enterprises to allow him into the room.

Steve Vancore is President of Clearview Research and VancoreJones Communications.  He is a longtime pollster and political operative in Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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