Who says Tea Partiers hate the French? 

Online polls are usually dubious affairs and not worth mentioning. This poll of tea partiers and their GOP presidential preferences is a bit different, if only for its methodology.

The 2012 Tea Party Straw Poll is a Condorcet election method (specifically a version of Copeland’s pairwise aggregation method). It is based on the principle that the winner is the candidate who would beat each of the other candidates in a run-off election if such a candidate exists.

The benefit of this polling system is that it elicits deeper preferences of the individual voter than the simple plurality system commonly used by other polls. It is particularly beneficial in a straw poll because it is more difficult for candidates’ organizations to “game” the system. This method also forces voters to give preferences between candidates who may not be their absolute favorite (or the one who paid for their ticket to attend the straw poll).

The Condorcet method is named for the 18th-century French mathematician and philosopher Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas Caritat, the Marquis de Condorcet.

Instead of just voting for their favorite, respondents have to choose between two out of dozens candidates in multiple matchups. It probably gives a better sense of how the respondents feel about the candidates than any simple primary matchup poll.

I wouldn't put any stock in the results of this particular poll -- you never know who is out there, spending all day responding to polls on the Internet, and I know nothing about the organization that has posted it. But I like the way this poll works. Most  presidential primary polls are meaningless anyway. What this one can tell you, and those cannot, is that someone like Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., could build up a lot of support, were he to run (which is extremely unlikely). Presumably, he is the second or third choice of just about everyone who has voted, because he beats other candidates in head-to-head matchups more often than anyone else. And Sarah Palin places tenth, behind Tim Pawlenty and others.

If you'd like to see how it works, give it a try.


About The Author

David Freddoso

David Freddoso came to the Washington Examiner in June 2009, after serving for nearly two years as a Capitol Hill-based staff reporter for National Review Online. Before writing his New York Times bestselling book, The Case Against Barack Obama, he spent three years assisting Robert Novak, the legendary Washington... more
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