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Gallup Poll Matters Most to Outsider Candidates

Finally, Newport said they use their editorial judgment.

The other polling organizations may have a different routine.

For example, a CBS/New York Times poll -- which previously has been one of the five major polls used in an election year to determine that 15% threshold -- didn't include Johnson in its survey released Sept. 16, 2011.

Fox News, after having excluded the former New Mexico governor from most of the debates it hosted last summer, allowed Johnson into a Sept. 22 debate because he managed to poll 1% among other organizations.

Third-party candidates must find a way to be specifically named by a polling organization if they are to have any hope of receiving 15% support in national polls.

"Typically if [polling organizations] don't include a third-party candidate it's highly unlikely that that third-party candidate is going to be polling 15% in other polls," said Newport.

Gallup has not officially named the polls that will be used for the 2012 debates, but previous election years have included Fox News, CBS/New York Times, NBC/Wall Street Journal, ABC/Washington Post and Gallup/USA Today.

Ultimately, the reason a third-party candidate who polls in single-digit percentage territory may be left off a polling organization's survey is because of time and money. Many organizations poll daily.

"Yes, it is a criteria of space, time and expenses -- one of the criteria we use," said Newport. "In theory we could go on for five minutes listing a very long list of candidates and asking people who they would vote for, but when we do polling we need to move quickly and expeditiously."

-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.

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