Reading between the polls: a different political landscape

I just read the Sept. 20 article "Why voter surveys don't agree," about polling variances, and as a supporter of a third party for my entire adult life, I find the admission that polls are often weighted for party identification very disturbing.

As you mentioned in your article, reporting of these polls can create a self-fulfilling prophecy by tainting voters' perspectives with what amounts to a selective snapshot of the political landscape.

I have often wondered why the Libertarian Party is almost never included in any reported polling early in the election cycle, despite having been on the ballot in 50 states in every presidential election year since 1992. This year, Ralph Nader is given exclusive coverage as the "third party" candidate, despite the fact that he is on fewer state ballots than Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik and is faring much worse in polls than in 2000.

It seems clear that the money the Demo- crats and Republicans spend has the effect of purchasing not only advertising airtime; it also purchases a monopoly of the editorial airtime. This makes a mockery of what is supposed to be a fair and open democratic process.
Hunter Schaeffer
Tucker, Ga.

I found your article on the fickle nature of polls and their results both illuminating and disturbing. The fact that so many polls are released is probably a function of their demand by the major political campaigns and political action committees - and to me, this is frightening. At best, these polls should be taken with a grain of salt.

One might think that the Harris, Pew, and Gallup polls were taken in different years, when in reality they were separated by days. Is the electorate this volatile, or are polling methodologies that different?

Many of my friends and I use only cellphones (not land-line phones). As your article said, this trend is exhibited among most young people. Given that this age group is slated to turn out in record numbers, polling by land-line telephones ought to be ignored.
Mike Kourabas
New York

The volatility of the polls seems to indicate how much the vote is being driven by emotional rather than rational, evidence-based decisions. In this case, the ability of polling subjects to predict their decision may be suspect.
Dorothea Leicher

Judge job performance, not personality

Regarding the Sept. 14 Opinion piece "Bush likability trumping record": I have never understood this likability theory. If the presidential election comes down to who is more likable, then running the country must be a pretty easy or unimportant job. I've never voted for a presidential candidate because I liked him. In fact, I don't think I've ever "liked" a presidential candidate, even those I voted for. What's important is whether I like the way the president does his job.
Lois Kalunki
Ontonagon, Mich.

Debates give a truer view of candidates

Regarding the Sept. 7 Opinion piece "In debates, expect the unexpected": The influence of television on elections is unmistakable. While I don't suggest voters base their vote on a candidate's ability to come across on TV, I am suggesting that the truest sense of candidates comes in a televised debate. TV ads and scripted speeches target issues and cubbyhole voters with slanted messages. The truth usually lies somewhere between the two positions , and I have an unshakable faith in the voting public to see that truth when the competing sides debate in an open forum. It might be time for an election law requiring debates between candidates for national office.
Mike Daniel
Lincoln, Neb.

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