Election helps bring into view serious issues in polling

November 10th, 2016 by Sam
I just posted this on the American Association for Public Opinion Research listserve.

While I certainly agree that framing etc huge problem, doesn’t seem to me that this gets at critical issues made evident from what happened.

There of course is a spiral of silence with regard to “third party” candidates. Stein and Johnson supporters concluded that voting was futile, as was the framing in media and polling reports throughout.

What I think is happening is the public is lurching for real change and the political system doesn’t want to give it to them. Pollsters role in this is that the “prediction” of election has totally outweighed actually understanding the public’s views. No poll asked who people WANT or PREFER to be president. Why?

No scientific poll asked the preference question in RCV or Range Voting form. A wealth of information could be gotten this way. A huge part of this is that this is just no on agenda of major media. But if polling is to be anything other than an accessory for media framing of whatever corporate media want to frame, then something very real has to give here.

There’s a volatility in the polls because of the hunger for change and the sense that the choice (apparently feasible choices) are probably phony. There could be a plurality for a “third party” and we’d never know it because the right question isn’t being asked, much less reported prominently, understood.

Sam Husseini
VotePact.org

Should “Third Parties” Embrace VotePact?

November 7th, 2016 by Sam

From “Should Third Parties Support ‘Vote Pacts’ To Avoid ‘Spoiling’ Elections?” by Kit O’Connell at MintPress:

“A lot of people have basically grown to depend on the confines of the two-party system and have a hard time getting their brain around a constructive, strategic path out of it,” Sam Husseini, a political activist, told MintPress News.

Husseini proposed an alternative strategy in which voters form “voting pacts” across party lines. For example, a Democrat and a Republican might each agree to vote for a third-party candidate of their choice, rather than the two major parties’ candidates. The strategy reduces the potential for “spoiling” votes, as long as voting pacts don’t cross state lines, because each of the major candidates loses voters equally.

Husseini operates the website VotePact.org to encourage this method of vote sharing or vote pairing.

“It has the potential for being a catalyst for genuine realignment and perhaps even for a victory for a so-called third party or independent candidate creative enough to use such a strategy,” Husseini said. [Full article]

“It is a neat concept”

November 3rd, 2016 by Sam

Human rights activist and former British Amb. Craig Murray writes:

With two such appalling candidates, there is a major problem. Many people are voting Trump to stop Clinton, even though they don’t like Trump. Many others are voting Clinton to stop Trump, even though they don’t like Clinton. Both Republicans and Democrats fear that if they support a third party candidate, they will let the other in. This is a kind of lesser of two extremely evil evils approach.

Sam Husseini has come up with Vote Pact. It enables pairing – a Republican and Democrat who trust each other should agree both to vote for a third party candidate. Both Trump and Clinton have therefore lost one each, and you can vote third party with no fear of having contributed to letting the greater evil in. It is a neat concept. Of course it will not catch on and will have no overall effect. I note it as an aid for those struggling with their conscience.

Whatever the outcome of this “election process” — we do hope that VotePact will be the shape of things to come.

“This Political Activist Created A Meaningful Way For You To Vote Third Party”

October 29th, 2016 by Sam

From Bustle.com: “This Political Activist Created a Meaningful Way For You To Vote Third Party” by Amée LaTour:

One of the main appeals of Vote Pact is that it allows people to vote for candidates they actually support without begrudgingly helping their least-preferred major-party candidate in doing so, since one vote is denied each candidate. Husseini suggests that part of the reason third parties have remained so unsuccessful is that they haven’t effectively acknowledged and responded to the spoiler argument. “[Ralph] Nader, [Jill] Stein, and [Gary] Johnson have all responded defensively to the spoiler allegations,” he says. “They have this, in my regard, somewhat empty appeal to principle, and they end up in the low single digits time and time again.”

Husseini thinks that these candidates should adopt a more empathetic approach to voters grappling with the threat of the spoiler effect and develop a “meaningful strategy” to make themselves viable candidates. One way to do so, according to Husseini, is to guide voters to participate in the Vote Pact method, telling them, “Here’s your solution. Team up with your friend, your neighbor, your brother-in-law, your co-worker, and both vote for me instead of one of you voting for Trump and the other voting for Clinton.”

“Most people who advocate the so-called safe state strategy have an eye for getting a third party to 5 percent to make a more viable party,” Husseini says. “But that just kicks the can down the road to the next election, at which point you need to make a break and to have a strategy to actually win, or at least have a theoretical chance of winning.” The safe state strategy allows people to vote third-party while avoiding the spoiler effect, but ultimately props up the major parties by helping to solidify their victory, while failing to significantly improve the position of third parties.

The Huge Problem with Polls: My Letter to Frank Newport

October 25th, 2016 by Sam
This letter was sent on Sept. 24 — via an intermediary who knows him well — to Frank Newport of Gallup, the pollster adviser to the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. I’ve received no response. Ironically, Newport is author of Polling Matters: Why Leaders Must Listen to the Wisdom of the People. I think a close reading of the letter shows that Newport has hardly taken his own advice. 
— Sam Husseini

Dear Frank Newport —

I believe I have found a significant blind spot in the exclusion criteria used by the CPD. When some suggested alternative criteria for inclusion in presidential debates, like if a majority wanted another candidate to be in the debates, the heads of the CPD rejected the effort. Then-CPD Director and former Republican Senator Alan Simpson said: “The issue is who do you want to be president. It’s not who do you want to do a dress rehearsal and see who can be the cutest at the debate.” Similarly, Paul Kirk, the then-co-chair of the CPD (now co-chairman emeritus) and former head of the Democratic National Committee, said: “It’s a matter of entertainment vs. the serious question of who would you prefer to be president of the United States.” (Citation in google books, “No Debate” by George Farah.)

But none of the polls the CPD is relying on for its exclusion criteria actually ask the “serious question of who you would prefer to be president of the United State” — nor do they ask “who do you want to be president.”

Read the rest of this entry »

A VotePact Dialogue

October 12th, 2016 by Sam

Steve: Why Jason, will you be my votebuddy?

Jason: What ever are you proposing?

Steve: You’ve been a rightwinger for as long as I’ve known you. I dare say you’ve not ever voted Democratic?

Jason: I avoid doing things that would lead me upon reflection to blow my brains out.

Steve: Well, I should admit to you I’ve voted Democratic at times. Why just this election, I voted for Bernie Sanders.

Jason: Yet you seemed so reasonable.

Steve: Too kind. Now, it’s fair to say we’ve agreed and disagreed on things, yes?

Jason: Well, you’re kind of a pinko, aren’t you?

Steve: Ayn Rand cultist! — err — Let’s avoid the name calling, shall we?

Jason: Only in jest.

Steve: Excellent.

Jason: I’m looking at this website here, VotePact.org — I think I see where you’re going —

Steve: Yes, well, succinctly, I say neither of us vote either for Clinton or Trump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Lester Holt Told the First Big Lie

September 27th, 2016 by Sam

Before the faceoff between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, many were pleading that Lester Holt, the NBC anchor and moderator Monday night, to be a “fact checker.”

Any delusions in that regard should have been dashed right away as he perpetrated a root falsehood at the very start of the event.

Holt claimed that the event was “sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. The commission drafted tonight’s format, and the rules have been agreed to by the campaigns.”

While the CPD certainly controls much of the event, it’s not a “nonpartisan” organization at all. It’s about as far from nonpartisan as you can get. It’s totally bipartisan. It’s a creation of the Democratic and Republican parties designed to solidify their dominance over the public.

Its origins are in an agreement “Memorandum of Agreement on Presidential Candidate Joint Appearances” from 1985 signed by Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., then Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Paul G. Kirk Jr., then Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The two would go on to head the CPD.

Read the rest of this entry »

Debates: Another Level of Bipartisan Control

September 26th, 2016 by Sam

From accuracy.org:

— “Televised Joint Appearances”: In 1985, the national chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties, Paul Kirk and Frank Fahrenkopf, signed a remarkable agreement that referred to future debates as “nationally televised joint appearances conducted between the presidential and vice-presidential nominees of the two major political parties … It is our conclusion that future joint appearances should be principally and jointly sponsored and conducted by the Republican and Democratic Committees.”

— “Exclude Third-Party Candidates”: In February 1987, Democratic Party chair Kirk and GOP chair Fahrenkopf together issued a press release and held a D.C. news conference to announce the formation of the Commission on Presidential Debates (“Commission on Joint Appearances” apparently didn’t sound right) — with themselves as co-chairs. The press release called the new group “bipartisan.” According to the New York Times, Fahrenkopf indicated at the news conference that the CPD was “not likely to look with favor on including third-party candidates in the debates.” The Times reported: “Mr. Kirk was less equivocal, saying he personally believed the panel should exclude third party candidates from the debates.” The newspaper quoted Kirk: “As a party chairman, it’s my responsibility to strengthen the two-party system.”

Nader Outlines VotePact as Strategy for So-Called “Swing States”

September 19th, 2016 by Sam

Today on the program “Democracy Now,” host Amy Goodman asked former presidential candidate Ralph Nader about “swing state strategy” for the election. It’s an ambiguous question and we were delighted to hear Nader respond by outlining the VotePact strategy, though he didn’t actually mention VotePact:

Let’s say you’re in a swing state, and you think that the least worst candidate is Hillary. What you do is you go with a Trump voter who thinks the Trump vote is the least [worst], and you trade off. You say, “Look, you won’t vote for Trump, and I won’t vote for Hillary. Let’s make a deal, and then we’ll vote for whoever we want to in terms of our conscience, third party or whatever.” There are already computerized systems for this underway you can actually join and network, and that will get rid of that.

As I’ve noted before, it’s a great shame that Nader didn’t see fit to apply the VotePact strategy in a serious way on any of the several occasions when he ran for president. Nor are any of the candidates genuinely applying it this time.

The Stark Difference Between VotePact and Vote Swapping

September 17th, 2016 by Sam

Arun Gupta—one of the most sophisticated analysts and activists around today—tweeted at me on Friday about a New York Times oped: “Anti-Trump Republicans: Don’t Waste Your Vote. Trade It.” Wrote Arun: “Imitation of @votepact is the sincerest form of flattery. @samhusseini“.

It says a lot about how terribly understood VotePact is that someone as plugged in as Arun would confuse it vote swapping, which is what’s outlined in the Times piece.

As I’ve written at VotePact.org/about: ‘This is not “vote swapping”—in which voters in so-called “swing” states who want to vote for third parties “swap” votes with committed Democrats and Republicans in so-called “safe” states. This was outlined by VotePair.org and VoteTrader.org, both now defunct. Unlike “swapping,” VotePact is not an attempt to “minimize the damage” of a third party run—it is designed to actually shake up the political spectrum, create a realignment and open the door to actual victory for independents or emerging parties. Also, VotePact does not result in people voting for candidates they don’t want—it frees people to vote for candidates they do want, but are held back by fear because of the limitations of the voting system. While the Electoral College is central to “vote swapping,” it is not at all central to VotePact, though VotePact does work best if the two voters are in the same state.’

And all that still stands.

Read the rest of this entry »