In the 1948 Presidential election all the public opinion Polls said New York Governor Dewey would win. It was assured, probably a landslide; nobody could beat the unpopular President Truman. It was said not even Truman's Vice-Presidential candidate thought he'd be elected. As the Polls had it Truman should be packing, not campaigning.
The Polls were wrong.
There is a very famous photo of Truman holding up a copy of the New York Times with the banner headline "Dewey Wins!" They say opinion polls have become much more sophisticated since then. Sure, if you say so.
of TV viewing over a two-week period. It came with three brand-new $1 bills; and being an honest person wanting to earn the money, I filled out the forms. This happened to come during the summer Olympics, of which I have never been a particular fan. My wife couldn't be bothered with the paper work (and hadn't gotten the money!), so I filled out her side for her using my own preferences. By my calculations this meant than 10 million more people watched "Law and Order" than Olympic swimming in 2000.
During the recent primary campaign I answered one survey call:
Would I vote for a certain candidate? Yes.
Would I be willing to put up a yard sign for him? Yes.
Would I like to donate to his campaign? Now I know why they called.
Some things about polling really intrigue me.
If 56 percent think one candidate is better than another, how many people were polled? I've seen numbers below 1,000 being put forward as representing the opinion of all Americans.
If 56 percent of people 65 or over prefer one candidate over another, do I change my vote because I'll turn 65 two weeks before the next election?
And, how much of these poll "results" are self-fulfilling prophecies? Would either of the presumptive Presidential candidates have gotten this far if some Poll or another hadn't said they were preferred by 56 percent of everybody in America (meaning less than 1,000 people)?
In the past three years the big thing has become on-line "Polls". These allow anybody to respond, and to do so as often as they like. One suspects these polls are not as scientific as those predicting Dewey over Truman, but they are very popular.
We're told one performer is worth $1 million because 56 percent of "America" think they sing, dance or whatever better than anyone else in America. Or, that the Chicago Cubs are better than the St. Louis Cardinals because of some Poll (oops, sorry, that last one is true).
Truth is all the on-line polls tell us is a percent of opinions among people who (1) have computers, (2) have an opinion to which no one else will listen, and (3) have nothing much better to do. Such results should be reported for what they are: raw numbers. It is not 56 percent who believe in eating Bluwaps on Sunday, it's 12 people.
So, this Blog is taking a Poll. Anyone may respond who has a computer, happens to see this Blog, wants to express their self, and has time to bother. It is GUARANTEED the results of this Poll WILL reflect the opinion of all Americans everywhere (actual numbers responding will be ignored -- usually less than 5 -- only percents reported).
QUESTION: WOULD YOU PREFER GASOLINE GO BACK TO $1 PER GALLON.
Results of this Poll, reflecting the opinion of everyone in America with a car, to be posted as some later date -- if they agree with me.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.