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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 18, 2012/ 26 Iyar, 5772

A little salt on the polls

By Wesley Pruden




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Public-opinion polling, like politics, prostitution and punditry, are honorable enough professions, if properly understood and taken with enough salt. But usually they aren't.

We're awash now in polls, most of them contradictory, each pretending to be an accurate barometer of what's on the mind of the average voter. Alas, the average voter has the attention span of a fruit fly flitting from banana to mango to plum. This suits the average politician just fine, since managing and manipulating attention spans is the key to what counts most, his survival.

The average politician understands what polls can tell him and what they can't, enabling him to adjust his convictions and rearrange his principles, if necessary, and sometimes even government policy, as public opinion shifts and changes with each news cycle.

Early in World War II, the Gallup Poll asked Americans what they missed most as the government imposed ever-stricter rationing of consumer goods.

The absence of women's nylon stockings was second only to tires and tubes on the list of most-missed goods; hairpins were high on the list along with refrigerators, automobiles and washing machines. President Roosevelt couldn't do much about the missing stockings, since scarce nylon was needed for parachutes, or refrigerators, since steel was needed for guns and bullets. But he loosened restrictions on glycerin so that women could have lipstick, which improved female morale no end and the morale of men even more.

Gallup's archives give an insightful glimpse of public attitudes of the past, some of them mercifully ignored by politicians of that earlier day. On the eve of World War II, 39 percent of the Americans Gallup polled said the health of their families would improve if they only had more money to spend on food, and if they had more money, they would spend it on meat, vegetables, milk and fruit. Sweets barely made list. WhenGallup's pollsters asked Americans in early 1945 what should be done with Japan when the war was over, 33 percent wanted to destroy Japan"as a political entity," and 13 percent said simply "kill all Japs." Polls have their uses, but in small, carefully controlled doses.

The average voter of 2012, on the other hand, is tempted to use a poll result to tell him who's going to win a November election. Polls taken in May can't do that. A poll is only a snapshot of public opinion, accurate enough but only of opinion at that moment. Cameras typically take snapshots at a shutter speed of only 1/125th of a second, a short time even for a fruit fly.

This week, polls were all over the place. Fox News reported a poll showing Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney by 46 percent to 39 percent. Rasmussen reported that its daily "tracking" poll had Mr. Romney leading the president by 46 percent to 45 percent. The necessary caveat is that voters were asked their preference "if the election were held today."

If the election were held today we would all be very surprised. The astute politician is more interested in a new Rasmussen poll that finds Mr. Romney more trusted to deal with the economy, and by a comfortable margin of 51 percent to 39 percent. This is the finding scary enough to frighten the paint off the walls at the White House. A perception like that is hard to reverse. Other recent poll results to frighten Democrats are that only 33 percent think the economy is getting better, only 37 percent give the president passing marks on the economy, 65 percent are angry at government policy, and 56 percent want Congress to repeal Obamacare.

The so-called horse-race poll, which only purports to measure which candidate is ahead, is thus worth very little in May. The more astute the politician, the more questions he has. How likely are the voters in the poll to actually take the trouble to vote? How passionately held is his opinion? Pollsters insist that what they're selling is more science than art, and the accuracy of the best of them can be astonishing.

Predicting what humans will do is always risky business, but handicapping elections is more accurate than handicapping the horses (if only because horses aren't handicappers). "It would be folly to argue that behavior can be predicted with perfect accuracy," George Gallup, the godfather of polling, said many decades ago. "It can't and never will be. But behavior can be predicted with a high degree of accuracy. The goal is to increase this accuracy." Words from the wise to the wary.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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