Ron Paul, The Polls, And Reality

For the first time in the 2008 campaign, Ron Paul has actually gotten press attention thanks to the showdown he had with Rudy Giuliani during Tuesday night’s debate. That may or may not be a good thing in the long run, but given the results of the latest Gallup poll, it certainly can’t hurt at this point.

Let me summarize.

Ron Paul has not gotten above the 2% in any poll of Republican voters that Gallup has done this year. There is no upward trend, there’s not even really a downward trend. It’s just a flatline.

That’s why this week, and the weeks that follow will be the test. If there is ever going to be a Ron Paul boomlet, this is when it’s going to happen. He’s been on the nightly news, CNN, Fox, all over the place. His name recognition is certainly higher than it has been at any point in the campaign to date. Whether that translates into support, though, is another question.

Now the reality part. If Ron Paul doesn’t start to move up in the polls significantly after this week, then I don’t think he ever will.  If he doesn’t at least start moving past the Duncan Hunters, Sam Brownbacks and Jim Gilmores, then this isn’t going to last long at all.

  • rob

    he got 3% in this Zogby poll
    He is also in fourth place when it comes to campaign funds.

  • Dean

    These polls were taken prior to the debates. He is doing much better than this.

  • Walt Thiessen

    Your point about Ron Paul actually misses the point. Can you point to a single poll that has been done after either the California or South Carolina debates that focused exclusively on California or South Carolina Republican voters and that also included Ron Paul in the polling questions? I can’t.

    It’s unreasonable to expect that Republican voters in NY or IL or FL were exposed to Ron Paul in the CA or SC debate in any serious numbers, let alone Republicans in the other 48 states. The Republicans most likely to have watched those debates for the most part were either Republican operatives or Republican residents of those two states, along with some media representatives and independent pundits such as yourself.

    Show me a poll where Paul is included that focused on the Republican voters in either California or South Carolina after their respective debates, and I’ll be interested. But claiming that Paul’s campaign is sputtering because he hasn’t caught on nationally after two state debates is ridiculous. I have my doubts about whether Paul will get enough attention that Republican voters will actually find out who he is in large numbers. But your claim really falls flat on its own merits.

  • Tony

    Interesting thing about the Zogby poll: Note that 28% were “not sure” which wins the poll. Also, Fred Thompson was included and he’s not even running. Lastly, supposed front runner Romney only got 9%. So the “not sures” and the Thompsons add up to 37% which says to me that this race is just getting started.

    We are eight months away from the first primary. So much can happen in that time, that at this point it is unfair to write any candidate off, especially one who has such a passionate grassroots movement behind him.

  • Alex Hammer
  • Torchbearer

    This guy has way too much internet support to not poll at least 5% in any other poll.
    Maybe internet users and bloggers are a different kind of person.
    What would our demographic be and why would we be attracted to Dr. Paul’s message? As a sociologist that is what interest me about all these poll numbers.
    Something isn’t adding up.

  • Doug Mataconis

    Some comments on a few of the comments:

    Yes, I know that this poll came before the last debate.

    That’s the point.

    The polls that come after the debate will be a crucial test to see whether there really is a strong grassroots movement out there. So far, Paul hasn’t moved beyond 2-3% in any poll. If he’s going to start breaking away, now is the time it will happen. If it doesn’t then I think the chances of this campaign developing into something big (which are already slim at best) are pretty much non-existent.

  • Doug Mataconis


    You assume that the “internet support” is really as wide and deep as it appears to be. I’m not so sure.

  • chad

    I think this internet support is very real, and as for the sociology question regarding the difference between internet poll results and national poll results:

    The internet is populated predominantly by people SEEKING out news and truth. As a generality, people using the internet are critical thinkers, whereas people watching the tube are “passive” thinkers. Note: this is a generalization.

    Therefore, people on the internet who have seen all of the images from the war and who are more likely to have read extensively into our country’s foreign policy history, are more likely to support a man who is CONSISTENTLY honest and who is telling the truth about the war and our failed policy.

    The national polls IMHO are not any more “scientific” than internet polls. They’re just measuring something different:

    Internet polls measure people who enthusiastically support their candidates.

    National polls very simply measure name recognition, and hardly anything else.

    I’m not saying name recognition doesn’t play into an election quite a bit, but we have months to see how much more attention Paul’s “name” (and message) can get.

    Another thought is that from my experience with communicating with other Paul supporters, his supporters are in large and growing pockets, but not spread out across the country the way McCaine’s AARP base is.

    These national polls are usually only 100 people or so. How is that scientifically measuring ANYTHING but name recognition.

    My guess is that suddenly Ron Paul might get a 9% in the national poll, and then he might drop to 2 again, and then he might get a 5% and then he might get 11% and then he might get 0% or whatever.

    No polls are remotely scientific, except perhaps “exit polls” taken when people are leaving the ballot box, if you’re expecting them to measure public “support.”

    Sorry for the long post. I think Ron Paul made an INCREDIBLY brave and smart move the other night, and Giuliani made a big mistake giving him that much attention. For someone who bills himself as a “security buff,” I think Giuliani is going to get slammed for his gross ignorance on foreign policy.


  • chad

    What I was saying about “pocket” support for Paul is that it seems to me where there’s one Paul supporter there are usually quite a few more.

    However, where there is one Giuliani supporter there could very well be a McCaine supporter and a Romney supporter, because their messages don’t differ all that significantly, and therefore no single one of them is making a clear distinction.

    McCaine has practically NO following on the internet, but he’s still doing quite well in national polls. It’s because he’s been on TV a LOT.

    Romney has a billion dollars, so he’s able to spread his name around, making his national poll numbers go up a bit, but he’s not gaining significant “popularity” by any measure I can tell. Certainly not on the internet.

    I support Paul, my wife supports him, and 28 other people I’m close to have pledged money to his campaign. That’s what I mean by pockets. Can you name 28 close friends who have contributed to one of the front runners?

    Just some thoughts.


  • Cory

    What about this MSNBC poll?

    It appears to show Paul winning the debate by a very large margin….



  • Chad

    Sorry to crowd you here! I just thought of one more thing…

    The national polls are among “republican voters” (meaning people who are registered), which means none of the MANY Paul supporters who are not yet registered as republicans (many libertarians, independents, “Reagan” democrats, and disenfranchised former Republicans) are being polled in the national polls.

    I think this will account for a significant boost of 5% or so over the next 5 months as supporters get their acts together and register.

    For instance, my wife and I are both going to vote Paul in the primary but neither of us are registered republicans yet.


  • Doug Mataconis


    Online polls may measure the zeal of a candidates supporters, but they aren’t a scientific poll primarily because they are self-selecting and don’t necessarily represent a cross-section of likely voters.

  • Doug Mataconis


    It depends on how the pollsters are doing this. I doubt that they are going by “registered republicans” because, in many states, there is no such thing. Here in Virginia, for example, you do not register by party.

    More likely, they are talking about people who have identified themselves to the pollster as Republican or leaning Republican”.

    I agree that how they are measuring this is important, but the fact remains that Paul has not gotten about 3% in any reputable poll, and since they all use slightly different polling methods you would think that an error like that would stand out.

  • Doug Mataconis


    Another point…..this time about fundraising.

    Congressman Paul is woefully behind the three frontrunners (Giuliani, McCain, Romney) in fundraising.

    Yeah, he’s fourth, but the gap between him and the other three is huge and that lack of funds is going to be important.


    Fox News dismisses Ron Paul just as their own polling and MSNBC show him the winner of the debate. I guess John Gibson and company can’t believe their lying eyes. No wonder they want him out. Paul should ask Rudy why anyone would vote for someone who put NYC’s anti-terrorism office in the WTC after it was already hit in ’93. Never forget 911 happened on Rudy’s watch as well as Bush’s.

  • A student

    Another factor to consider is that Ron Paul’s supporters are likely to be younger and less conventional than the average voter, and therefore less likely to have landlines that can be polled. I’m a university student and virtually all of my peers rely solely on cell phones, becoming unintentionally invisible to Gallup polls in the process. While Ron Paul clearly isn’t a frontrunner, his support is almost certainly higher than the telephone polls would suggest.

  • Chris

    Ron Paul never had anything more than a snowballs chance in hell. I agree with him on most things, but his stance on 9/11 and the war alone put him (and almost every other doctrinaire Libertarian) into the “would vote for McCain first” zone.

    I’m writing a main page post on this right now.

  • Cory

    So I’m in my late 30s. A software engineer living in DC with no land line. I’m a registered Libertarian. Not sure where I fit but I’ve supported Paul for years with contributions, even when I lived in the People’s Repulic of (K)alifornia.

    Paul doesn’t have a chance, but it’s not because his views are not shared by a majority of Americans. It’s just that a (voting) majority of Americans will never hear his message if the usual suspects get their way.

    I never thought I would see people that I formally respected like Rush, Hannity and Levin become total sellouts for the NeoCon branch of the Republican party.

    Americans are going to continue to get screwed by both parties who have become nothing but tools of the ever expanding socialist state.

  • Doug Mataconis


    Did you really think that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, or (ugh) Mark Levin would really give a fair hearing to a man who, when you listen to him, points out how exceedlingly wrong they really are ?

    Moreover, it’s not the job of the media to give Ron Paul or anyone else free coverage. Its his job to run a campaign that garners the kind of support that warrants media coverage.

    Right now, he’s the Republican Party’s equivalent of Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich. Entertaining for a soundbite or two, but not taken seriously by anyone.

  • bumbledraven

    According to the May 15-16 FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll, 1% of registered Republican voters with land lines support Ron Paul,

  • Cory

    Roger that. I’ll be throwing my vote away this year :)

  • Craig

    The upward trend has already started. The latest Zogby New Hampshire poll shows Ron Paul rising from 1% in January to 2% in April to 3% in May.

    Six of the other candidates on the stage at the debates are all at 1% or less (Brownback, Tancredo, Gilmore, Hunter, Huckabee, and Thompson), and going nowhere.

  • KuernoDeChivo

    Time for me to re-register back into the republican party.

    At least until after the primaries!

    Ron Paul Rules!

  • (What’s the frequency, Kenneth?)

    I think most people are missing the big picture. Very few people listen to folks other than Republicans and Democrats. Now there’s a Republican in the debates and he’s getting the message of liberty out there unlike before. He my stay at 3%, or he may go to 25%, or he may explode–who knows?

    The really good news is he’ll be in at least ONE MORE debate after people have started asking the question “Who is this Ron Paul guy?” That means the message of liberty is going to explode, regardless of how close Ron gets to the White House.

    The message has been broadcast far and wide–the current batch of Republicans (with the possible exception of Paul) won’t do, and neither will the Democrats.

    I’d say we’ve already seen a lot of good news, and why not be so bold as to hope for more?

  • Seer

    I think I can make a few good guesses about the disparity between online and offline polls:
    A) Paul has many young supporters, a demo that is notorious for failing to register to vote. Many, including myself, are not even old enough to register (I can vote in the general election though). They can vote online, but not off.

    B) Paul has a lot of bi(tri)partisan support. He has Democrats, Republicans, (L/l)ibertarians supporting him and a handful of independents. National polling only reports registered Republicans.

    C) Sample size and the pocket theory: Paul has large pockets of supporters, while the top tier have a smattering of supporters everywhere. With only about 1,000 people polled it will end up favoring the top tier.

  • Doug Mataconis


    Yeah that’s a trend alright. At that rate he’ll be at 12% by the time most of the primaries are over and done with.

  • gary


    Every legitimate poll showed Ron Paul won the debates hands down.
    Now it up to Fox and all the whitewashers to invent new polls to say he didn’t.

  • Laurie

    I can tell you why Ron Paul is not polling higher on the telephone polls. They are not even giving him as a choice when they call.

    I was called and asked the following questions?

    What political party are you affiliated with or leaning toward? I told them Republican

    If the election was held today, which of the following candidates would you vote for? They then listed everyone except for Ron Paul. When I asked, What about Ron Paul? The woman thanked me for my time and hung up.

    These telephone polls are not scientific either, they are skewing them to say what they want.

    Proof enough for me that there is a concerted effort being waged to bury Ron Paul by the powers that be.

  • Justin

    I have to agree that ROn Paul supporters are in large enclaves rather than evenly distributed. Im from the Bay Area in CA and Paul has a messiah like following. But in Montana where my cousins live…no one has heard of Ron Paul. However, I really believe that if all of the Libertarians, pissed off GOPers, and independents vote for Ron Paul, he can pose a serious challenge. Make sure to register as a Republican and vote for Ron Paul!!!

  • Shane

    I used to be included in the polls when I gave a lot of money to campaigns. Let me explain how the likely voter thing works:
    1. You give a lot of money, so your information is published by law
    2. The pollsters get this list, which is of likely voters, for free

    Any questions so far?

    Ok so even if you are likely to vote (i.e. my mother who served as an election judge for years and always votes, never got the polling packets & phone calls I did) you aren’t counted. Because you did not get on the list, because you didn’t give money, and since money is god in America, it’s all that is really measured.

  • Matt Silb

    What off-line polls do, which on-line do not, is give a good prediction of who is going to win a primary/election. And that is what matters. Having 10,000 enthusiastic supporters does not mean as much as 100,000 half hearted voters.

    If people care about Paul they will contribute and volunteer. If he has money and workers it will mean something. Otherwise he is just another Internet bubble.

  • Wyche Robinson

    It is not the function of our Government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error. Robert H. Jackson
    Do we believe this or are we just trying to look smart.

    Are we a bunch of wussies? Who cares what those media whores think about Dr Paul? He is putting his life on the line for us. Those guys get get paid big bucks to push whoever pays them the most.

    Dr. Paul will only fail us if we fail him. Pressure the Republican Party to keep him on the debates. Let them know, that we know, what they are up to, and we will make sure the Republican Party will fade into the history books if they do it. Just because he is not a neo-con mouthpiece, does mean he is not a Republican. Lets show these jerks the true power of the internet and America.
    Get pumped up guys, this just the beginning.

  • paul

    it would be just intelligent politics for the GOP to give the presidental nod to Ron Paul, think about it. the GOP knows it lost november because of their failed foreign policy. if republicans wish to regain control of congress then need ron paul as president, and fully support him. help him to bring our nation back to its constitutional roots.

  • As if The Bush Kennedy Amnesty Bill didn’t alienate us..

    The current GOP works for the interests of illegal aliens and Israel. Ariel Sharon was right when he commented, “we run America.” Either the GOP reinstates Ron Paul’s brand of old-school Republicanism or all right leaning swing votes need to vote EN MASSE for the strongest competitor of whoever the GOP nominates. I for one will vote for Ron Paul even if I have to write him in. Sorry, I don’t support McCain’s pending War on Iran. I think Bush’s foreign policy has created more than enough terrorists for the next century of Americans to deal with.

  • Lorin

    POLLS ARE NOT ELECTIONS !!! I can’t believe that anyone for any reason can be “eliminated” from an election by poll numbers. If this is the case then our Republic is doomed. All of these candidates should go all the way to New Hampshire, and perhaps a few states beyond that before anyone can make any determinations about anything. Remember Buchanan in New Hampshire in 88 ? Remember when Reagan was considered an oddball ? I am so sick of polls i could spit.

  • ricquejon

    anyone who has even an elementary grasp of math can understand the power of exponential growth. something short of that, but nevertheless powerful is taking place here. in my area alone within less than a week of a meetup being started, it has grown to 50 members. this is without the avertising and hiring that any of the other campaigns would have to do to match this. I have personally turned over a dozen family and friends to ron paul’s freedom message. and i am probably only average among his supporters. any amount of money could not hire people like that. at least since the 1980s we have awaited this opportunity
    and we feel this is americas last shot at preserving our liberty. even if rp had only thousands of supporters, just do the math. its a while before the elections. give me 1 cent, double it each day, i will be a millionaire in a month.
    and don’t underestimate the power of the internet, and the alternative media…remember when apple and microsoft were laughed at by big blue ibm.
    how about yahoo and google.and what about those puny little “rice burner” cars from japan…
    beware, the 21st century is upon is
    old school politics and the mainstream media that are becoming irrelevent…

  • Robert

    Polls do not reflect reality in my opinion.

    But the internet does.

    And people who are supportive of Ron Paul is getting wider as his exposure grows. Its not so much the man himself people are turning on to, but it’s the IDEAS he’s expressing and supporting.

    People can think for themselves when given choice, the internet is giving that choice and reality will reflect that when the time comes to vote.

    Support Ron Paul and the ideas of Liberty.

  • Robert

    One other thing I’d like to add.

    Almost each comment made by Ron Paul supporters and people hearing the message, have made intelligent and insightful points that are varied and different then another’s. From YouTube to News sites, to blogs like this one…people who support Ron Paul write comments using reason and a clarity of mind that is unparalleled in public discussion when observing the objective reality of Mass Media and reality.

    It’s amazing, it’s as if people are actually thinking about these things for THEMSELVES.

    I wonder if MSM can handle that?

  • TerryP

    I agree that Ron Paul should make his beliefs about Bin Laden, his vote for going after Al-Qaeda more known and differentiated from his beliefs about Iraq and his votes about that issue.

    His five minutes with Tucker Carlson prior to the last debate is excellent. He does a very good job explaining his views about foreign policy as well as domestic spending. There is post further up on this. Go watch it. There are only a couple of comments at this time so it doesn’t look like to many of the posters here have seen it.

    I will be voting for Ron Paul if I get the chance.

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  • Walt Thiessen

    Well…it’s four days later, and there are still no published polls from either California or South Carolina post-debates that include Ron Paul. Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that there aren’t going to be any polls of that kind?


    What we are witnessing right now is a revolution – on SEVERAL grounds.

    a) Ron Paul’s message is being spread far and wide, REGARDLESS of the final outcome of the race. His educating of the populace will have far-reaching effects.

    *see the following:

    b) The media censorship and/or maligning of Dr. Paul is waking up more and more people to the fact that the mainstream media lie/distort, and therefore can’t be trusted any longer.

    *See the following:


    c) I think Ron Paul will continue to do MUCH better than anyone expects, thereby forcing the evil power-brokers in the media/government to take drastic measures in order to silence him and his message. THIS will end up causing a mighty revolution of which they cannot control.

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