It Must Be Important, Have You Seen the Polls?

June 25, 1995|By PAUL VITELLO

The average American eats 66 hot dogs per year, although men eat three times as many hot dogs as women, according to the polls.

The American public is paying closer attention to the Medicare debate than to the O. J. Simpson double-murder trial, according to the polls.

In the Simpson trial, according to polls, whites are five times more likely than nonwhites to believe Mr. Simpson guilty.

One in 10 British men wears the same underpants two or three days running.

These are all true statements of real poll results, and not one of them really matters much.

There are too many polls: Political polls. Sex polls. Hot dog polls. pTC Under- wear polls. Foreign policy polls. They all get pushed together in the air, forming clouds of facts and numbers, raining meaninglessness.

Polls are numbers, and we Americans respect numbers more than feelings. So, I try my best. I may feel -- and believe firmly -- that every factory making handguns and assault rifles should be shut down, but I must respect the fact, too, that 75 percent of my fellow Americans believe that the Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to own a gun. The polls say so. And only 67 percent of Americans favor stricter gun control, according to the polls.

President Clinton (who is behind or ahead of the leading Republican candidate, Bob Dole, by 5 to 10 percentage points, according to which poll you read) already has three pollsters, 17 months before Election Day '96.

As the pollsters say, Mr. Clinton must figure out how to maximize his strength among those voters earning $10,000 to $35,000 a year in family income -- a group that votes at a rate of only 23 percent to 40 percent -- while minimizing his losses among those with family incomes above $50,000, who, according to the polls, vote at a rate of 60 percent, thus giving them more clout.

Mr. Dole, of course, must do the opposite.

Makes sense to me.

But Rain Man could figure out that much. He is the character played by Dustin Hoffman in the movie of that name a few years ago. He was very good with numbers. He was also severely autistic.

You can hear him in the polls:

If the election is held today, Mr. Clinton beats Mr. Dole comfortably. If the election is held today, Mr. Clinton swamps Newt Gingrich.

Forty-four percent fewer Americans belong to bowling leagues today than in 1980.

Eighty-six percent of Denverites say Rockies baseball announcer Charlie Jones must go.

Seventy-five percent of married women say they usually or always have orgasm during sex.

The percentage of welfare mothers under the age of 18 is 1.2.

Seventy-five percent of Americans said Connie Chung's firing as co-anchor of the CBS Evening News had nothing to do with her sex.

Rain Man for co-anchor. Rain Man for baseball announcer. Rain Man for president.

Paul Vitello is a columnist for Newsday.

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