Ever think to see a Libertarian polling at 12%?

What if I told you there was one -- in a race with two major-party candidates -- and that result was obtained as a write-in candidate?  Would you be interested?

Forget the hypotheticals: go read about a poll conducted by the Louisville Courier-Journal's Dale Moss.

The re-election of U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel won approval, and he was picked too as the champion of public service. Then again, he tied with President Bush atop the list of those whom people suspect of being out for themselves. Better to be both cheered and booed than ignored, Sodrel said he has heard.

"I understand that I have disagreements (with some) -- what is in their best interests," Sodrel said.

Sodrel, a Republican, is opposed both by his Democratic predecessor, Baron Hill, and by Libertarian Party nominee Eric Schansberg. The latter received 72 votes, a pleasing total for a candidate whose name was not among the choices included on the survey. Does the result hint of public dissatisfaction with both Sodrel and Hill? Schansberg likes to think so.

"We'll see how it goes," he said.

Twenty-six people who wrote Schansberg in also singled out U.S. Rep. Ron Paul as their No. 1 good guy in government. Paul, of Texas, is also a Libertarian, although he won his congressional seat as a Republican.

In the Moss survey, Paul finished higher than dozens of supposedly better-known local and state officials.

That's a pretty striking result when you're talking about a write-in candidate. Now, it should be noted that the poll was "unscientific", which in this context probably means the results are being reported straight to the readers.  That's actually a bit of a good thing.

You see, the normal political polls ask a lot of people a lot of questions.  They don't just ask who that person supports or would vote for; they ask if the respondent has voted before, and how often, what political party they belong to, and so on.  They then run those numbers through a statistical analysis to try to weight the numbers properly to match exit polls, so that they can predict who will win an election better.  One of the steps in that process is often weighting the results by party affiliation; that is, they look at their sample, compare it to the expected Republican/Democratic split, and adjust the results to match what they think the results would be if their sample party split matched what they think the real party split is.

There's a place for manipulations like that, and predicting elections is as fair a place for it as any.  But when you are trying to guage public support for a candidate's proposals, or the candidate himself, playing too many games with the party split is a good way to lose information about those candidates who don't fit neatly into the two party system.

The Libertarian party is rapidly becoming the biggest thing in politics that nobody wants to talk about.  The man is Eric Schansberg.  He's an economist and public policy analyst with 15 years of experience as a university professor.  Despite that environment, he's pro-life, and has a more coherent and a more rational position on Iraq than the national party's presidential candidate in 2004.  Oh, and he has a blog.

Full-Disclosure: I don't know him personally, but I know people who do, and that's where I got the information.

This entry was published Thu Jul 27 00:41:59 CDT 2006 by TriggerFinger and last updated 2006-07-27 00:41:59.0. [Tweet]

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