A Dose Of Reality About The Florida Straw Poll Results

While pundits continue to draw conclusions about the Florida GOP’s Presidential 5 Straw Poll over the weekend, this chart (via Wikipedia) is worth considering:

A few thoughts:

  • Herman Cain got 986 votes. That’s hardly an indication of a surging campaign.
  • Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul, and Newt Gingrich all fall with a 186 vote margin
  • There were only 2,657 votes.

Before we draw vast national conclusions from this thing, it’s worth keeping this in mind.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Dean_L says:

    With a poll base of roughly 2500 these results can be considered at least directional and probably more. However, the results are strictly Florida. Those aren’t necessarily readily extrapolated to the nation and those who aren’t paying close attention (i.e. non-primary voters).

    That said, perception of a Cain surge can become a self-fulfilling model.

  2. @Dean_L:

    When you consider that this is a “poll” (and not one that conforms to any statistical standards) of self-selected Republican political activists in Florida, I don’t think it can be said to be indicative of anything.

  3. James Joyner says:

    I read somewhere before the straw poll that other candidates were basically all throwing their support behind Cain to deny Perry a victory. Since Google search now prioritizes brand new stories, it’s clogged with countless variations of the same news story, making it nearly impossible to go back and corroborate.

  4. @James Joyner:

    Given the games that are sometimes played with these straw polls, it wouldn’t surprise me if that were true

  5. mattb says:

    @Dean_L: I’m still unsure if this can be said of characterizing the Florida GOP (even in terms of the Primary) for two reasons:

    1. This was still — as I understand it — a pay-to-vote caucus. If I read the FAQ correctly, delegates had to pay a $175 fee to attend/vote. That definitely shifts the demographics of the voters.

    2. A lot of attention has been paid to the fact that Cain was one of the few candidates that actually stayed for the whole event — including the vote. The conventional wisdom of some analysts is that this was as much of a teach-you-to-leave-early as anything else.

  6. @mattb:

    The CPAC straw poll is the same way. You have to be a paid attendee of CPAC (or someone with one of the student or blogger passes that are given out) to vote. The Paul people have been able to game the system in recent years by essentially paying for their supporters attendance fee. I would imagine the same thing happened here. Your point remains, of course, because a system where the campaign pays the fee shifts the demographics of the group even more.