At a time when it is almost a requirement that all of us be offended by something, I choose to be offended by political opinion polls.
We know that political opinion polls have a mixed history, and this has been true from their first appearance in 1935, when a poll conducted by the Literary Digest predicted that Republican Alf Landon would defeat Franklin Roosevelt.
To be fair, the first Gallup Poll, also released in 1935, correctly predicted victory for the New Deal president, beginning our love affair with political polls, which have become a part of the political game and a weapon used by office seekers instead of merely a tool to predict winners and losers. The most misleading thing about them is their attempt to convince us that results of a poll taken months before the election really mean something!
And we know they still can be wrong. Almost all polls predicted a Clinton victory in 2016. This shows how out-of-touch with ordinary voters the polltakers can be. Their projection of winners is based, it seems, on a relatively small sample of people called at “random,” on land lines.
But polls are attractive weapons in political campaigns. By harping on poll numbers that favor your side, one can help create the positive results that you predict for your party. This is made easier by the media’s love of “polling data,” especially when they can supplement it with colorful graphs that appear to actually represent facts instead of ever-shifting opinions.
We Democrats have been battered for over a year by questionable poll data. That and nasty personal attacks on Joe Biden have convinced a large number of Americans that Republicans are poised to seize (a word I use deliberately due to red states’ voting restrictions) control of Congress in the mid-term elections.
Because of this drumbeat of disaster, I was intrigued by a newspaper report (Washington Post 8-27-22) suggesting that Democrats might not face the losses pollsters have predicted. Fundraisers by Democrats “have reported an uptick in donations” in August and “one of the party’s biggest donors is considering pouring more money into House races.”
House races? We have been told that weak Trumpist candidates in several states could allow Democrats to retain control of the Senate, but control of the House of Representatives has been conceded to Republicans for many months! Is that changing? Only the next two months will tell.
But fellow Democrats, even in red Kentucky, we should take heart. Michigan representative Elissa Slotkin now “feels a different energy than even three months ago, but certainly six months ago.”
And my astute friend and former student Berry Craig, a no-nonsense historian and journalist, is even admitting to a cautious optimism about the coming election.
While I have warned in earlier columns about the end of our democratic republic should the “semi-fascist” Trump Republicans win (good term, Joe!), I am now inhaling a breath of optimism. This was enhanced when a good friend of this column sent me a CNN report (8-28-22) with the title “’You are more powerful than you think’ – Why one man says it’s too soon to write off democracy in America.”
The subject of this article is Eric Liu, the CEO of Citizen University, a Seattle nonprofit “that teaches people how to cultivate civic power.” Mr. Liu is said to be a charismatic speaker, “an evangelist for democracy,” and a popular TED talk presenter.
Liu proposes a counter-story to the MAGA narrative that Donald Trump and white Americans can restore our greatness. His story is “We’re all better off when we’re all better off.”
This slogan appeals to American diversity; Liu is a baseball fan who notes the sport is now “healthier and more robust now that it includes players beyond White Americans.”
“Every Fortune 500 company is stronger, more resilient and with a deeper capacity for innovation and more widespread, diversified markets because the United States has moved into full economic citizenship ... for people of color.”
Liu clearly understands why Trumplicans want to limit non-white voting. I hope they fail, and that the opinion polls and Dem GOTV push all Americans to the voting booths – the only poll that counts.