The online privatized presidential nomination coming to a computer screen near you, Americans Elect, issued its judgments last November about the politicians who it felt were the best match for the nation. I’m not kidding: Americans Elect called them its “Top Matches” and promoted them heavily on its “Candidates” page without reference to its methodology. At the end of November, after some prodding by journalists, On The Issues stepped forward to identify itself as the contractor creating the ratings for Americans Elect. Halfway through December, Americans Elect removed the label “Top Matches” without explanation, but it has kept around those ratings ever since. Head over to Americans Elect’s Candidates page today, click through to a presidential contender’s profile and you’ll still be treated to information based on those old, odd, error-prone ratings.
For a real treat, take a look at Ron Paul’s profile page. You’ll be told what Ron Paul thinks about “Reform”:
According to Americans Elect, Ron Paul goes with option A…
A: To make this country great, we should return to the examples and values of our forefathers
B: This country is already great, we shouldn’t change a thing
C: To make this country great, we should keep building and adapting for the future
… ignore for a moment that none of these statements are actually about “Reform.” Also ignore that they aren’t mutually exclusive. You could agree with both A and C, or both B and C, for instance. You could also come up with other ideas, or say, “hey, what do you mean by the examples and values of our forefathers? Which ones?” Questions that aren’t exhaustive, mutually exclusive and clear are not good survey questions.
Like I said, ignore that for a moment, because this isn’t actually a survey question answered by Ron Paul. It’s an answer that contractor On the Issues came up with on its own and assigned to Ron Paul. How? Look over here, where On The Issues explains its coding. Read down the page and to the right to find this doozy:
“The Patriot Act is unpatriotic; it undermines our liberty: A on question 9
NO on making the PATRIOT Act permanent: C on question 9”
You read that right. On the Issues coded Ron Paul’s opposition to the Patriot Act twice: once it decided that opposing the Patriot Act means “returning to the Founding Fathers,” and once it decided that opposing the Patriot Act means “adapting for America’s Future.” Go figure that one out… but please, hold your nose to keep your brains in while you try.