I get it. We want to have the election results at, roughly, 7:01 PM Eastern Time on election night. More so this year — the Blues want their long national nightmare to come to an end, and the Reds want to get back to uncovering pederasts in the basements of Democratic Party pizza parlors. We all have important stuff to do.
So we’ve got to find a meaningful way to twiddle our thumbs. We can blame Covid for screwing up the process, but we really don’t want to piss it off. We can blame long lines or rigged mail deliveries or drive-by militia members sorely deprived of pizza. Or, being a gaggle of pussies, we can do what we’ve been doing since Florida discovered Chads without Jeremys twenty years ago: we can blame the polls.
This is stupid. The polls are not the province of seers. They do not, and are not supposed to, tell you in advance who is going to win any election. If you’ve got money riding on the outcome, and I used to before my daughter started warning my marks, looking to the polls for relief is a waste of good mojo. The polls are nothing more than tools for political organizers and for reporters desperate to fill time or space.
We’re in this ridiculous mind-set because of the way the polls are reported. The who’s-winning-the-moment stuff is irrelevant. They are snapshots of fragments of time – and, as we get closer to each election, the “results” are almost always within the margin of error. Plus or minus four points allows the polls to be as much as eight points off. If the Daily Racing Forum reported those odds, you’d never put money on a horse.
However, polls in the aggregate are extremely useful in showing trends and in weaknesses of each campaign… but only if you look at the demographic breakdowns… and if you do so every day. Gawking at a bunch of polls is a great way to uncover campaign weaknesses and ill-defined responses to those issues that actually have the concern of the electorate.
For example, as we got closer and closer to election day the polls showed us that Trump’s red-baiting was so effective in Dade County Florida the Trumpsters were able to slam the state solidly into their column. By the time the finish line was in sight, the Dems knew the Republican “Biden is a communist shill for the demonic Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez” riff was extremely effective in getting out the Venezuelan-American vote, as well as those Anglo-octogenarians who are nostalgic for the 1950s red scare. As for those Cuban-American voters who still believe Cuba was a heavenly democratic place when it was run by Fulgencio Batista and owned by Meyer Lansky… well, damn, Batista died in 1972, Lansky died in 1983, and Fidel Castro died in 2016 so no matter who wins any US presidential election these babbling fools ain’t gonna get their brothels and gambling halls back.
Vivisecting the polls for trending information and then repeating the whole process each day thereafter requires a level of devotion that would stop a monk cold at his candle. Star Trek fans would take a look at all this and shout “hey, get a life!”
Poll-knockers like to refer to the 1948 “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline to prove predictor-plebiscites are preposterous haven’t done their homework. This front page was the result of the work of one polling organization (Gallup) that had stopped surveying three weeks earlier. It fronted only the earliest edition of a Republican newspaper paper owned and operated by one of America’s most notorious right-wingers and, even then, that edition was recalled before the majority of copies hit any newsstands. It was a four-way race with three of the four national candidates being Democrats, so Republican Dewey was the logical victor. It was a mistake nonetheless.
Oh, one thing more. It was 1948, when the majority of consumer telephone accounts were party lines shared with one or more other families. Telling a pollster how you’re going to vote was akin to making a public revelation.
I do believe there are people today who are so concerned about their choice that they lie to the pollster. I certainly believe that there are people so sophomoric they believe lying to a pollster is a noble effort worthy of Loki or Puck. You know, folks who think the sound of a toilet being flushed is hilarious. Hey, to each their own.
When politicians say “There’s only one poll that means anything — the one that’s held on election day,” those politicians are correct. Sure, they’re weaseling out, but I said they were politicians, didn’t I? The fact is, they don’t know anything you didn’t know, although good politicians likely will get their misinformation before the media does. The real political workers are looking at the demographics, the numbers behind the numbers, and they’re doing so each day in order to spot trends and weaknesses in their own efforts.
That doesn’t mean they can take this information and actually do something with it. They need their candidate’s understanding and cooperation, they need feet on the street, and they need money.
What they have — what they must have — is patience.
And that’s the lesson we all need to learn.
Thanks and a tip of the tilted Gold chapeau to ol’ pals Jim Chadwick and Steven Grant for building and oiling the springboard.