Most active Georgia voters could probably name at least three candidates for governor.
There's Sonny Perdue, of course, the Republican incumbent. And there are the two well-known Democrats, Cathy Cox and Mark Taylor, hoping to win the July 18 primary to face Perdue in November.
Most of those voters probably wouldn't know, until they step up to the screen of the voting machine, that there is another Republican running against Perdue. Or that there are four Democrats running against Cox and Taylor. Or that there are two Independents running against themselves.
Apparently, Georgia's polling firms don't know it, either.
These other candidates show up in the polls only as "Undecided," as in the most recent numbers from Strategic Vision, showing Taylor beating Cox 46 percent to 42 percent, with 12 percent "undecided." Some of that 12 percent will go to Cox and Taylor; the rest will go to Bill Bolton, Tommie Clark, John Grays or William McCarley.
That's a lot of clutter, favoring name recognition above all. Things are simpler on the Republican side, with only two names to choose from: Perdue, and Ray McBerry. That means Perdue must get at least one vote more than McBerry to run in the General Election against anyone in that crowd of Democrats.
With the stakes that high, then, you'd think the pollsters would at least want to know if anyone actually intends to vote for Perdue's opponent. But like me, you'd be wrong.
The newest Strategic Vision poll released this past week had no mention of McBerry, who faces Perdue in less than two weeks - even though it included polls for every prospective presidential candidate (Mitt Romney? Tom Vilsak?) in a race still more than two years away.
So I asked why. Strategic Vision's spokeswoman, Laura Ward had this response: "It's because he is not politically viewed as a major factor. Additionally, other polling companies are doing the same."
Has anyone included him in a poll to find out if McBerry is a "major factor?" ""I don't know of anyone who has polled him," Ward said.
So, with no one including McBerry in a poll, how does everyone seem to intuitively know that he isn't a "major factor"?
"Traditionally during our polling, if we do not include a minor candidate, some respondents will protest this or we will receive an orchestrated e-mail and mail campaign from these candidates demanding to be included," Ward said. "In this case we have not. Also, his positions place him as a fringe candidate."
Wow. The polling company thinks McBerry is wacky, so they assume the electorate agrees with them and don't even ask.
That doesn't seem fair. Worse, with this approach, the polling companies are only reinforcing the flaggers' underdog status.
The Bible says Christians will be persecuted. Rather than taking that as a warning, some Christians view it as a challenge: They don't feel authentically Christian unless they're being persecuted, so they act like jerks so people will persecute them and, thus, authenticate them.
The flaggers are like that. They expect conspiracies, and so believe the media, political parties, corporate America, you name it, are conspiring against them. They view every slight as proof. Unfortunately for the flaggers, those people are only doing the same thing as the polling companies: Ignoring them.
And it's understandable for the rest of us to ignore the flaggers and their chosen candidate. Still, it doesn't make any sense for the people whose job it is to measure political winds to ignore them just because they don't like the way the wind is blowing.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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