Our chapter on public opinion and participation distinguishes random-sample surveys from other types of "polls." Sarah Tung writes at The Houston Chronicle:
What’s that, you say? Rep. Ron Paul has won yet another straw poll?
As of today, for instance, the RealClearPolitics average of GOP preferences is as follows:
Michael Muskal explains at The Los Angeles Times:
Straw votes or polls are a special hybrid between scientific surveys and general elections. A scientific poll is based on a sample that professes to offer some insight into how the general electorate will vote. But a straw poll is merely the counting of anyone who shows up at that moment. The number of voters is generally small and self-selected, so there is no way to extrapolate the results to a larger body like the general electorate.
To use an example from the movie "Field of Dreams," it is similar to the voice that tells the hero, Ray, "If you build it, he will come." Hold a straw poll and dedicated partisans will come to cast a ballot for their choice, often Ron Paul.
Paul has done extremely well in straw polls, winning twice at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2010 and this year before Saturday's victory. His supporters are ardent in going to great lengths to express their preference for the 75-year-old congressman.
But Paul's support rarely seriously grows when the number of voters rapidly expands as the venue shifts from a small, self-designated preference poll to a larger caucus, like Iowa's, or eventually, the even larger arenas of primaries. Paul can always be a voice, but he has had enormous difficulty becoming a competitive player.