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Gimme a roulette wheel any day
Public Forum.jpg

To the editor,

If there was ever a pale science, it is polling. Whether you were a Trumpster or a Bidenite, you got a good dose of that “science” on Nov. 3rd (and 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th ...)

To paraphrase Harry Truman, if you put Pollsters end to end they point in all directions.

Lincoln was among the first presidents to use informal polls. Hundreds of people would gather in the foyer of the White House each day and a few would come into Lincoln’s office, wanting some job or a favor. In return, Lincoln would get the pulse of the electorate (in small doses) with his questions and their answers.  

Truman was the first of the Presidents where pollsters tried to convince Americans that New Yorker Thomas E. Dewey would totally defeat the then-unpopular Truman. The banner headline in the Chicago Tribune declaring “Dewey Defeats Truman” was another pollster prediction gone astray, and a permanent essay on just how unreliable polling is – or has become.

A great deal of polling these days is offered to fit a political narrative. If you unintentionally (or intentionally) under represent the Democrats in a poll, the poll will tilt towards the Republican issue. And vice versa. In other words, the polls represent those who pay for the polls. Sort of defeats the purpose.

Who are these people, these pollsters, who think they have a right to know the outcome of an election before Rachel Maddow? Why can’t they wait until final votes are cast, instead dump their lame knowledge (their guess) on the rest of us?

In Kansas, the pre-election polls showed for the first time since 1932, a Democrat had a chance to beat a Republican for the U.S. Senate.  Chuck Schumer was tap dancing on his desk at the thought. Kansas was gravy. It’s a rule: no Democrat wins where the buffalo roam. He was giddy with excitement at flipping old barefoot weed-in-the-mouth Kansas rubes into a blue state – or at least purple.  

Didn’t happen. We rubes decided to remain rubes.

Lots of money was spent and lots of votes cast, but the margin wasn’t that close. Thank you, pollsters. All that money that came into the state to pay for the crappy advertising probably wasn’t even spent here to bolster the economy.

I must confess that when I was in law school (when Blackstone was a pup), I helped a friend make some calls. He was a pollster. I remember asking the questions and checking off answers but I don’t know if the poll was accurate. There were 20 of us in a hot little basement room making calls. None of us had the whole picture. Afterwards, there was a lot of talk from my friend about “coefficients of variation,’ and mesmerizing discussions over coffee about how the CV represents the ratio of the standard deviation to the mean.  

My eyes glazed over.  

Actually, I didn’t care. I don’t recall voting the same as my shirt-tail poll suggested we should vote. This was 1974 and I voted for Dagwood Bumstead for no other reason than he married well.  

That’s what is irksome about a poll. It assumes that if Candidate “X” is ahead in polls that there is no sense wasting a vote on “Y”. Doesn’t everyone want to support a winner? Vote “X”.  

Nope. Too much coefficient of variation in that guy... 

The election results, for the most part, were “read ‘em and weep.” Thanks to the polls.

Ronald D. Smith