Before this gets completely out of hand, please stop and consider the effect that inaccurate polls will have in warping next year's general election presidential debates.
According to The Nation's John Nichols, "we should all be making noise now about the fall 2016 debates that are being planned by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. If past is prologue, they will be even more limited, exclusive, arbitrary, and, ultimately, diminishing of discourse that is essential to democracy."
A growing consensus has formed that it is irresponsible to use horse-race polls to determine who should and who shouldn't participate in debates for the highest office in the land. There are several reasons why polling just isn't working anymore, including the plummeting response rate from those surveyed and the difficulty in getting a good sample in the age of cell phones.
Gallup, Inc., founded in 1935, went so far as to announce last week that because of the current flaws in survey research, the organization has no plans to participate in this cycle's horse-race polling and will instead focus on other ways to help democracy.
Gallup's announcement shocked the political world, but most surprising was Editor-in-Chief Frank Newport's change of heart. Newport, who runs Gallup but also serves as the sole advisor on polling to the Commission on Presidential Debates, said in a sworn declaration to the Federal Election Commission just last year that "polling is by far the best method of measuring a candidate's support among the electorate prior to Election Day." But now he's pulled his company out of the business of using polls to measure a candidate's support.
So where does that leave us?
A reporter from the Independent Voter Network points out that the Directors of the CPD are on thin ice:
"Gallup's recent move to back out of presidential primary polling raises certain questions surrounding whether public polling should or should not be used to determine who makes the presidential debate stage.
Since 2000, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has used a 15 percent polling threshold for candidates to make the debate stage, a threshold that has been impossible for independent candidates to reach. The five polls, in which the CPD determines which candidates make it to the stage, are chosen by Dr. Frank Newport, Gallup's editor-in-chief.
... With its chief pollster out, how will the CPD respond? Since other polling organizations like the Pew Research Center are also moving away from horse-race polling, the commission's options may be limited."
Frank Fahrenkopf, the former Republican National Committee chair and co-chairman of the CPD, has repeatedly said that the CPD would announce its polling criteria for the 2016 presidential debates at least one year before the first debate occurs.
That deadline passed 18 days ago, with still no word from Mr. Fahrenkopf or the CPD on the barriers to entry for next year's debates.
Given Dr. Newport's reversal and Gallup's exit from horse-race polling, it would be unconscionable for the CPD to move forward with next year's debates using grossly inaccurate polling as the barrier for entry.
Instead, the CPD Directors should stop behaving like puppets of the two major parties and do away with using polls as the criteria. Their polling rule serves only the interests of the Democratic and Republican parties in maintaining their duopoly. The CPD should Change the Rule and allow an independent candidate to have a chance to represent the 43 percent of Americans who don't feel fully represented by either major party on the presidential debate stage.
There are plenty of alternatives to polling that have been suggested to the CPD. What about a national independent primary, where millions of Americans vote, and the winner earns a spot on the debate stage? Or how about a nationwide ballot access signature competition? Under either one of these alternatives, for the first time in our history, an independent candidate can be designated to be in the debates at least six months before the election.
By controlling access to the debates, the CPD effectively determines who has a credible chance to win the election. That is a solemn and historic responsibility. It's time for them to enact a simple rule change that enables an independent candidate to qualify for the debates by some means other than polling.