Has Adrian Wyllie earned the right to debate?

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This Wednesday will be the first live televised debate between Charlie Crist and Rick Scott – and possibly Adrian Wyllie.

Wyllie is suing for the right to participate under the presumption that he met the stated threshold of 15% in polls and should therefore be included.

Did he make it?

This is not a legal analysis of the offer made by the Florida Press Association and Leadership Florida, nor is it an assessment of the wisdom of making such an open-ended invitation. It is simply an assessment of whether or not Wyllie has met the mark.

In my estimation, he has not.

A quick search of each of the publicly reported polls clearly shows several things:

  1. Recent aggregations (see Huffington Post, and their polling aggregator, which tracks over 20 pollsters) have Wyllie sitting at 6.3% — far from the 15% mark.
  2. Of the most recent polls released (UNF, 0ptimus, PPP, and Survey-USA), Wyllie is averaging 9.2%.
  3. Only the 0ptimus poll has him at 13%. And this poll, when you add the margin of error, could be seen as the one that gets him in.

Let’s pause and take a look at the 0ptimus poll and briefly at 0ptimus itself because, without this poll, Wyllie’s weak case gets even weaker.

According to their own website, they are not pollsters – well they are, sort of, in much the same way that any group of smart younger entrepreneurial politicos can develop an instrument, and commission a large number of robo-polls. They appropriately disclose that they use new and innovative techniques to poll, but as noted in this blog, their poll must be taken with a full shaker of salt. Call me old school, but as someone who has spent a very long time attempting to develop stable methodologies in a rapidly changing world, I am hesitant to embrace unproven science when it comes to public opinion surveys. But to be more specific, there were several problems with their poll, most notably the fact that they do not include cell phones in their sample. They claim to use very large samples to accommodate that problem, but that doesn’t correct a sampling error, it only compounds it.  found that poll to be especially noteworthy in that it had a 10-point differential in base support for both Scott and Crist from essentially every other poll we have seen.  In light of these concerns, we simply must view the 0ptimus poll as an outlier.

But there is even a bigger problem with the 0ptimus poll and Wyllie’s assertion that this one should be his ticket. According to news reports (and the ever-reliable Marc Caputo), Wyllie was supposed to hit that mark – fairly or not – by September 30th.

Further, I believe Wyllie gets an artificial bump in these types of polls simply because the respondent is given information on the poll that he or she will not get during the actual voting process. As the 0ptimus methodology properly discloses, they describe Adrian Wyllie as a “Libertarian” – which he is. But he will appear on the ballot as “Adrian Wyllie (LPF)” – and most voters will not know what “LPF” stands for. “Libertarian” has a brand. It is meaningful – positively or negatively – to a large number of voters, “LPF” has no such brand.

If you remove the 0ptimus poll, Wyllie loses his one lifeline and the aggregators push him back deeper into single digits.

Of interest, and sort of related, the recent New York Times/CBS News/YouGov poll does not list either Wyllie or his party affiliation in their recent tracker. They have “other” at 1% and “unsure” at 8%. If you give Wyllie all of those votes, he still falls far of the mark.

This is not to say that he and the other candidates do not deserve a voice – he does and they do – and voters indeed deserve to hear an array of views. That is a matter of opinion and that is my opinion – and we are each entitled to one. But as Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once quipped, we are not entitled to our own facts. To claim that Wyllie is polling at 15%, or even close to that figure, is simply not the fact of this matter.

As an editorial aside, one must find at least a small dose of irony in the fact that Adrian Wyllie – a less-government-in-our-lives Libertarian – is asking that same government to intervene on his behalf and force two private enterprises to allow him into the room.

Steve Vancore is President of Clearview Research and VancoreJones Communications.  He is a longtime pollster and political operative in Florida.