Shortly after Republican presidential candidate Buddy Roemer appeared at an Americans Elect promotional event, Americans Elect released its ratings system that promotes some politicians as a better “national match” than others. This is part of Americans Elect’s leadup to the nation’s first ever online presidential nomination in less than six months’ time. Who received the honor and the favor of the top “National Match” stop out of all the hundreds of politicians listed? It just so happened to be Buddy Roemer.
What’s the methodology for the pick of Buddy Roemer as a “74% match”? The short and brutal answer is that we don’t know because Americans Elect hasn’t told us. Americans Elect has published one sentence fragment to explain its criteria: “Public figures whose views most closely match a national survey by Ipsos Public Affairs on priorities and answers to the core questions.” But Americans Elect hasn’t published the list of questions in that Ipsos Public Affairs survey, a minimal standard set out by the National Council on Public Polls, of which Ipsos Public Affairs is a member.
The other half of that sentence fragment, “answers to the core questions,” consists of a set of nine questions that Americans Elect drew up without the consultation or approval of its membership base, then subcontracted out to a company called “On the Issues” to research. And then there’s the “Top Priority” of Buddy Roemer, listed by Americans Elect as “Education.”
We can’t check against the Ipsos Public Affairs poll results that Americans Elect commissioned, because Americans Elect is keeping them secret. But we can fact check the “core question” responses claimed for Buddy Roemer by Americans Elect along with the “Top Priority” of “Education” they’ve assigned to him.
Top Priority: Education?
Number of the Latest 50 Tweets by Buddy Roemer having to do with Education: 0
Issues listed in Buddy Roemer Twitter profile: “End unfair influence of corp $ in DC; end unfair trade; close tax loopholes.”
Number of mentions of the words “Educate,” “Education,” “Schools” or “Students” on the home page of Buddy Roemer’s campaign website: 0
Number of mentions of the words “Educate,” “Education,” “Schools” or “Students” on Buddy Roemer’s blog in the past month: 0
Number of mentions of the words “Educate,” “Education,” “Schools” or “Students” on the Presidential Candidate Comparison Chart released by Buddy Roemer’s presidential campaign: 0
Order in which “Education” is listed on Buddy Roemer campaign Issues page out of 12 listed issues: last
# of words dedicated to explaining issue of “Education” on Buddy Roemer campaign Issues page, compared to all 12 listed issues: least
Buddy Roemer on the “Core Questions”: Accurate?
Take a look at this special page consisting of Buddy Roemer’s supposed answers to Americans Elect’s corporate-generated “Core Questions.” They aren’t really Buddy Roemer answering Americans Elect’s questions. Rather, Americans Elect has given a contract to the “On The Issues” company to look through Buddy Roemer’s public statements and decide what his answer would be. But is this process accurate or arbitrary?
Take “Core Question 1″ and Buddy Roemer’s supposed “answer” to it:
Question 1 answer B on Economy:
When you think about the US budget deficit, which of the following solutions is closest to your opinion?
A: Cutting existing programs
B: More spending cuts than tax increases (mix of both solutions)
C: More tax increases than spending cuts (mix of both solutions)
D: Raising Taxes
AmericansElect.org CANDIDATE ANSWERS:
Candidate indicated ‘B’ on 1 out of 1 statements.
Government stimulus creates jobs, but only in China: B on question 1
Follow the link in this answer, based on only one statement by Buddy Roemer, and you’ll be taken to this news snippet:
Government stimulus creates jobs, but only in China
Buddy Roemer has just issued a sharp statement in response to President Obama’s jobs speech. “The President’s jobs plan will certainly create jobs–jobs in China,” Roemer said. “Another $450 billion government stimulus is not the answer. The President’s job-killing economic policies have decimated domestic manufacturing, shipped thousands of good American jobs overseas and saddled future generations with an historic level of debt they may likely never be able to escape.”
Source: Response to 2011 Jobs Speech in The Weekly Standard , Sep 8, 2011
Look up that article in the Weekly Standard and you’ll see it’s been quoted in its entirety by On The Issues for Americans Elect. That’s all there is to Roemer’s declaration in the Weekly Standard. So read those words carefully. Is Roemer’s declaration calling for “More spending cuts than tax increases (mix of both solutions)”? No. Roemer’s statement doesn’t call for spending cuts — rather, it criticizes spending increases — and it says absolutely nothing about tax increases.
Is Roemer’s campaign position on taxing and spending best captured by response ‘B’? Maybe. Maybe not. In either case, Americans Elect doesn’t document it.
Americans Elect’s shoddy documentation problem isn’t limited to “Roemer’s answer” on spending cuts and tax increases. Check out the question, “When you think about healthcare reform in the United States, which of the following solutions is closest to your opinion?” The “answer” supplied in Roemer’s name: “C: The Government should have a limited role in providing healthcare insurance.” But the speech that is listed by the Americans Elect contractor as a source for this answer doesn’t talk about government having a limited role in providing healthcare insurance. Roemer’s speech touches only briefly on health care, and takes its few words to advocate for tort reform, against self-interested pharmaceutical companies and against invasive private insurance companies. That’s not the same answer. Is Roemer’s campaign position on health care best captured by response ‘C’? Maybe. Maybe not. In either case, Americans Elect doesn’t document it.
Then there’s the one “Social Issues” core question, which has to do with same-sex marriage. Americans Elect has Buddy Roemer listed as advocating for Answer B: “Same-sex couples should be allowed to form civil unions, but not to marry in the traditional sense.” But the source Americans Elect’s contractor cites doesn’t feature Buddy Roemer saying anything at all about civil unions. Furthermore, Buddy Roemer declares in his statement that states should be allowed to answer the same-sex marriage question as they see fit, not that same-sex couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry. On this question Americans Elect’s grading system for candidates seems completely at odds with its documentation.
In one last example, Roemer is assigned the “answer” to an environmental question that “A: Natural resources exist for the benefit of humanity.” But again this assertion is supported with only one source, which is Roemer’s declaration of opposition to ethanol subsidies. That answer has almost nothing to do with the idea that “natural resources exist for the benefit of humanity.”
Based on some undisclosed algorithm combining three standards…
1. Alignment with an Ipsos national poll whose questions and responses Americans Elect hasn’t released to the public
2. “Education” as Buddy Roemer’s assigned top priority, and
3. “Answers” assigned to Buddy Roemer by an Americans Elect contractor
… Americans Elect has ruled that Buddy Roemer is a “Top National Match” with American public opinion out of hundreds of other politicians. Buddy Roemer has received the favorable top spot on Americans Elect’s “Candidates” page as a result (a communication favoring Roemer that appears to violate the spirit of the Americans Elect bylaws). But the basis for alignment according to the first standard has been kept secret by Americans Elect, and Americans Elect’s contentions about Buddy Roemer’s priorities and manufactured “answers” are either poorly documented or directly at odds with what Buddy Roemer is saying and doing in his Republican presidential campaign. All of these standards have been chosen in top-down fashion by self-appointed Americans Elect corporate leadership. None of these standards have been developed in consultation with the Americans Elect rank-and-file.
If the process leading to Buddy Roemer’s identification as the #1 “Top National Match” is any indication of the underlying rigor of Americans Elect’s rating system, then there’s no good reason to place confidence in those ratings and every reason to be suspicious. If Americans Elect wants to build confidence in its process for promoting certain politicians over others, then it must make its ratings system subject to member input in development, to transparency in process, and to public review and audit of results.