Published: December 19, 2010
In case you hadn’t noticed, the presidential elections are just a couple of years away, and that means we’re getting ready for two year of polls, predictions and projections.
Already we’re seeing posturing by incumbents, candidates and assorted other presidential “wanna-be’s,” all vying for our attention.
Of course, whenever a new poll comes out everyone involved will tell us how they don’t pay any attention.
And you can bet they’ll keep on polling just the same.
But you know, if we’ve said it here once, we’ve said it a dozen times: So what else is new?
In the 1948 election the Chicago Daily Tribune made one of the worst election polling mistakes of all times when it ran its famous, or infamous, “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline.
Most of us have seen the photo of a gleeful Harry Truman holding up the erroneous newspaper.
In all fairness, though, we need to say that the Tribune wasn’t the first news organization to make a mistake in reporting polling results.
In 1916 Lee De Forest, considered one of the fathers of radio, broadcast the Charles Evans Hughes-Woodrow Wilson election returns, and predicted a Hughes victory.
Of course, there was plenty of blame to spread around, since De Forest was getting his news from the New York American.
But these are all old-fashioned problems.
Who can forget the infamous “hanging chads” in the 2000 election?
Then there were the polling debacles in 2000, 2002 and 2004 when the broadcast networks were predicting one set of winners, but the actual victors turned out to be someone else.
And who was too blame?
Of course, it couldn’t be the pollsters.
Instead, errors were attributed to the weather, the distance interviewers had to stand from the voting locations, computer errors and power disruptions.
So, as we start, as it were, to “count ‘em down” until the election, two long years away, let’s not take all the polls and predictions too seriously.
After all, the only poll that will really count is the one done by the general public on election day.
Contact Larry Burris at firstname.lastname@example.org.