T Nation

CNBC Deletes Poll



An Open Letter to the Ron Paul Faithful
| 11 Oct 2007 | 07:21 PM ET

Editor's Note:

Dear folks,

You guys are good. Real good. You are truly a force on World Wide Web and I tip my hat to you.

That's based on my first hand experience of your work regarding our CNBC Republican candidate debate. After the debate, we put up a poll on our Web site asking who readers thought won the debate. You guys flooded it.

Now these Internet polls are admittedly unscientific and subject to hacking. In the end, they are really just a way to engage the reader and take a quick temperature reading of your audience. Nothing more and nothing less. The cyber equivalent of asking the room for a show of hands on a certain question.

So there was our after-debate poll. The numbers grew ... 7,000-plus votes after a couple of hours ... and Ron Paul was at 75%.

Now Paul is a fine gentleman with some substantial backing and, by the way, was a dynamic presence throughout the debate , but I haven't seen him pull those kind of numbers in any "legit" poll. Our poll was either hacked or the target of a campaign. So we took the poll down.

The next day, our email basket was flooded with Ron Paul support messages. And the computer logs showed the poll had been hit with traffic from Ron Paul chat sites. I learned other Internet polls that night had been hit in similar fashion. Congratulations. You folks are obviously well-organized and feel strongly about your candidate and I can't help but admire that.

But you also ruined the purpose of the poll. It was no longer an honest "show of hands" -- it suddenly was a platform for beating the Ron Paul drum. That certainly wasn't our intention and certainly doesn't serve our readers ... at least those who aren't already in the Ron Paul camp.

Some of you Ron Paul fans take issue with my decision to take the poll down. Fine. When a well-organized and committed "few" can throw the results of a system meant to reflect the sentiments of "the many," I get a little worried. I'd take it down again.


Allen Wastler
Managing Editor, CNBC.com


I was unfortunately unable to locate the part where she showed evidence that there were in fact "fewer" Ron Paul voters represented than the poll indicated. Getting several votes referred from one site is not the same as getting several votes from the same voter.

So I guess the lesson is that polls are useless unless they reflect the expectations of the pollster, right?



My Open Letter To Ron Paul Supporters
Posted By:John Harwood

I have been reading e-mailed complaints from dozens and dozens of you about CNBC.com's decision to take down our online poll gauging results of the CNBC-MSNBC-Wall Street Journal presidential debate.

I agree with the complaints. I do not believe our poll was "hacked." Nor do I agree with my colleagues' decision to take it down, though I know they were acting in good faith.

My reasoning is simple: Political dialogue on the Internet, like democracy itself, ought to be open and participatory. If you sponsor an online poll as we did, you accept the results unless you have very good reason to believe something corrupt has occurred--just as democracies accept results on Election Day at the ballot box without compelling evidence of corruption. I have no reason to believe anything corrupt occurred with respect to our poll.

To the contrary, I believe the results we measured showing an impressive 75% naming Paul reflect the organization and motivation of Paul's adherents. This is precisely what unscientific surveys of this kind are created to measure. Another indication: the impressive $5-million raised by Paul's campaign in the third quarter of the year.

To be clear: I believe that Ron Paul's chances of winning the presidency are no greater than my own, which is to say zero. When he ran as the Libertarian Party candidate for president in 1988, he drew fewer than a half-million votes. In last week's Wall Street Journal-NBC News Poll of Republican primary voters--which IS a scientific poll with a four percentage point margin for error--Paul drew two percent.

He lacks the support needed to win the GOP nomination, and would even if the media covered him as heavily as we cover Rudy Giuliani. Why? Because Paul's views--respectable, well-articulated and sincerely held as they are--are plainly out of step with the mainstream sentiment of the party he is running in.

The difference we are discussing--breadth of views vs intensity of views--is a staple of political discussion and always has been in democracies. Highly motivated minorities can and do exert influence out of proportion to their numbers in legislative debates and even in some elections. They most certainly can dominate unscientific online polls. And when they do, we should neither be surprised nor censor the results.

--John Harwood


The guy admits they flooded the poll then complains when CNBC took it down? So what? Paul has a very very small number of rabid supporters. They only get one vote in the real election. Why are they trying to spoil all the polls?


Just more proof that internet polls are completely worthless.


Hardly. They served a purpose for Ron Poll supporters. Now if they could only address those unworkable "scientific" polls.

The funny thing is that Ron Paul is given 4:1 odds (ahead of McCain) of winning the GOP nomination by professional gamblers and odds makers. He has a much greater than "zero" chance and the editor who wrote it doesn't understand the significance of Paul's support. There are the fervent supporters and then there are people like myself who aren't as reactionary (for example, you wouldn't catch me dead waving a sign for a politician in public). This is much bigger than the media is reporting.


Does anyone think he gets the irony?


Without meaning to, you essentially repeated exactly what Boston said.

Ron Paul supporters spam polls - apparently they have little else to do.

What is interesting is that the polls that will ultimately matter cannot be spammed, and the people with lives/job/sense will place their vote in the appropriate place.

Non-Paulies don't much bother with internet polls. Paulies seem to measure the worth of their entire lives from one internet poll to another. What was once cute (at best) is now sad to watch.


And they spam money too.

Like And they spam straw polls too.

What about people who respond to political forum posts? Is that sad too?

When one doesn't care at all they call it apathy -- and then they complain. When one cares too much they call it fanaticism -- and still they complain.