Would any parent take their child to an ice cream shop that features a few dozen flavors on the menu and tell them they can only get vanilla or chocolate?
Surely not, unless they’re prepared to face a lot of protest about why they can’t have a different flavor, one they really want.
Yet, that’s essentially what all too many political polls do when they limit respondents to only two choices.
The Quinnipiac University poll of 1,183 Maine voters, conducted Sept. 10-14, is one that clearly cast itself in the role of restrictive parent.
The poll script read: “If the election for United States Senator were being held today, and the candidates were Sara Gideon the Democrat and Susan Collins the Republican, for whom would you vote? (If undecided) As of today, do you lean more toward Sara Gideon the Democrat or Susan Collins the Republican?”
In other words, you’re getting vanilla or chocolate.
On the Quinnipiac website titled, “Tips for Reporting on Poll Data,” reporters are condescendingly advised, “Good writers avoid repetitive or dry language to tell an engaging story.”
Allow me to reciprocate with a tip: Good political polling includes the names of ALL candidates who will appear on the ballot.
The Quinnipiac poll wasn’t the first to blatantly disregard candidates other than those of the ruling political class and that needs to change.
If a conscientious journalist wants to write a truly engaging story on such polls about the Maine Senate race, their lead should address why Lisa Savage and Max Linn, both of whom will appear on the ballot as Independents, could only be recorded by pollsters as, “Someone Else.”
While I can’t speak for the particulars of Mr. Linn’s campaign, I know Ms. Savage’s vibrant grassroots campaign has turned my head and earned my vote. And I didn’t need ranked-choice voting to enable me to make that decision.
So, I’ll have a scoop of mint chocolate chip in a cone with green sprinkles, please.
Aimee Moffitt-Mercer lives in Belfast