Americans Elect’s dubious new poll

From a press release that landed in my inbox this afternoon:

New polling from Americans Elect shows Americans evenly divided between voting for a Democrat, a Republican, and an independent-minded presidential candidate. This polling is consistent with other national polls that demonstrate the need for a new way to pick a president.

According to the Americans Elect poll, about two thirds of voters (66 percent) believe it is important for an independent to run for president in 2012. A solid majority is favorable towards an independent running against the Democratic and Republican nominees. About oneâ€quarter (26 percent) say they are absolutely certain or very likely to vote for an independent presidential candidate. When those who say “possibly” are included, that number jumps to 64 percent.

I haven’t seen the methodology of the phrasing of the question, but to a large extent, it doesn’t much matter. The notion that there’s a significant number of Americans willing to support an independent presidential candidate seems pretty uncontroversial, and I can recall seeing other polls pointing to similar results for years.

The next question, though, is why anyone should care. Unnamed, generic candidates can find it easy to generate widespread public support because, well, they don’t exist. Voters can imagine these candidates having all kinds of appealing qualities, but real people with actual records and positions on controversial issues tend to find presidential campaigns a little more difficult.

For that matter, Americans Elect doesn’t actually have a candidate. The entity has reportedly reached out to a variety of people Americans Elect leaders find appealing — Joe Lieberman, Lamar Alexander, and Chuck Hagel, for example — and none was interested. Even Jon Huntsman has ruled it out.

And while we’re at it, let’s also not forget that Americans Elect is sitting on $30 million for their election project, and organizers refuse to disclose where the money came from. Ed Kilgore recently added that organizers have also adopted a series of “anti-democratic measures” and built them into Americans Elect’s structure: “the power of a board to set aside (subject to a veto override from ‘voters’) the People’s Choice in order to create a legitimately ‘balanced, centrist’ ticket, whatever that means.”

I realize Americas Elect is in a position to have an effect on the presidential race, and has secured a ballot line in at least a dozen states. But as near as I can tell, it’s an overly-secretive, well-financed gimmick, eager to play electoral mischief for reasons that remain unclear.