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Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2004 / 14 Mar-Cheshvan, 5765

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

Can't hear ya, Mr. Pollster | With opinion polls finding it impossible to predict the next President, Americans are beginning to trust polls less than they trust the politicians the polls are tracking.

Pollsters do not call cell phones, for instance, so anyone without a landline gets left out. These voters, overwhelmingly young, hip and loudly making dinner plans, could cast the deciding votes on Tuesday. And if they do, our next President will be Thai food, around 9.

But cell users are not the only group to be under - or over! - counted in the polls. Other misrepresented blocs include:

AUNTS OVER AGE 105: Bless them, these dotty darlings do answer their phones and even call the pollsters "Dear." But replies like "Carry a bush? Nobody carries a bush!" and "Who cares if Mary Cheney is gray? So am I!" threaten to compromise the results. Since every old person in America intends to vote (take that, young cell phone users!), this election is truly a senior moment.

BRATS: Pollsters asking to speak to "the adult in the house" often end up with someone significantly younger. These respondents tend to answer with phrases like, "Biggest issue facing America? Easy! We need a national allowance. And way more Martin Luther King Days. And free gum." Because these underage answers carry the same weight as older ones, however, Bush is now promising a "No Child Left Behind Without Some Bubblegum Act" while Kerry has vowed to keep Social Security in a "lunchbox."

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THE UNSTINKY: If you have ever been in the shower when the phone rang, you know that you have missed a poll. Then again, if you never took a shower because you were always waiting for a pollster to call, you are probably riper than a Montana Mountain Man.

THE DIAL TONES: You want underrepresented? Ask the people (not just you, Mom!) who mean to answer the phone but accidentally hang up by pressing "talk" twice.

SWAMP-DWELLING LIZARDS: Very hard to reach, but tend to vote Republican.

THE DEAD: Ditto, but tend to vote Democratic.

THE RECEIVER HUNTERS: Ever since cordless phones appeared, they have disappeared, too, usually eloping with the remote. People hunting for the phone can't answer surveys. Neither, unfortunately for the pollsters, can people answering the remote.

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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