The success of Deez Nuts shows why you shouldn’t trust US election polls

Who’s missing from this debate? Deez Nuts.
Who’s missing from this debate? Deez Nuts.
Image: Reuters/Brian Snyder
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As if the list of viable US presidential candidates wasn’t long enough already—now you can add Deez Nuts to it. Yes, that is the name of a candidate in the next US presidential election, who is running as an Independent, according to his Federal Election Commission (FEC) filing.

Ridiculous presidential candidates are a feature of every American election. All somebody has to do to become a candidate is fill out a Form 2 (and there’s no fee). Consequently, this year there are 607 presidential candidates, including a cat—Limberbutt McCubbins—who announced his candidacy with the catchy slogan, “The time is meow.”

The difference with Nuts is that he has proven surprisingly successful. A survey (pdf, pg. 39) released August 19 by Public Policy Polling (PPP) gave him a “favorable” rating of 6%.

Deez Nuts, according to his FEC filing, lives at 2248 450th Avenue in Wallingford, Iowa. Perhaps not surprisingly, there is no such person at that address. In fact, as the Daily Beast discovered, the person who filled out the FEC form is 15-year-old Iowan Brady Olson, a high school sophomore.

Once the form is completed, the FEC said it doesn’t really check whether the person on it exists.

“We do vetting, but it’s more about ‘did they fill out the information correctly? Did they review the fields?’ It doesn’t speak to the authenticity of the individual who filed the claim,” FEC Deputy Press Officer Christian Hilland told the Daily Beast.

Nonetheless, in a hypothetical race between Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Deez Nuts, 9% of North Carolinians told Public Policy Polling they would choose Nuts.

Q31 Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Deez Nuts?

Q32: If the candidates for President next year were Democrat Hillary Clinton, Republican Donald Trump, and independent Deez Nuts who would you vote for?

(Nuts became part of the poll in the first place after Olson contacted PPP and asking to be included, and a PPP polling specialist decided it would be interesting to pit him against Clinton and Trump.)

The main takeaway from this whole affair should be that polling is highly unreliable, especially with the presidential elections over a year away. Early in a race, when voters are unfamiliar with candidates, they are likely to simply vote for a name they recognize. That helps explain Donald Trump’s surprisingly high polling results. More importantly for Nuts, there is no accountability associated with answering a poll. If somebody calls you up and asks you to pick a name, why not choose the most amusing one? (This too may help explain Trump’s high poll numbers.)

What’s more, the margin of error for the Public Policy Polling survey is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points, which means Nuts’ vote might be closer to 6% and his “favorable” rating closer to 3%. He also has the benefit of being an independent—a go-to choice for people who like neither main party but still feel obligated to pick somebody. In an earlier poll of Iowans, PPP said that “Deez Nuts also polls at 7% as an independent, which sort of suggests that might be the floor for a third party candidate.”

There are plenty of other ridiculous candidates PPP could have chosen to pit against Trump and Clinton. Here are a few more who have registered their candidacy with the FEC.