Parsing the polls may be an art, but don't put too much stock in them

October 03, 2012

Your editorial was spot on regarding the current presidential campaign ("It's not over yet," Oct. 1). If one were to believe the current polls, President Barack Obama has already won the election and there's no need for anyone to vote.

That obviously is far from the truth, because a poll is simply a snapshot in time and subject to daily change. I recall the historic presidential election of 1948, when the polls overwhelmingly favored a landslide victory for Gov. Thomas E. Dewey over incumbent president Harry S. Truman.

The Chicago Tribune was so certain of Truman's defeat that the paper went to press before all the votes had been counted — much to their chagrin and embarrassment the next day, when it turned out that Truman had, in fact, won the election with 49.5 percent of the popular vote compared to Dewey's 45.1 percent.

More recently, an unbelievably small number of votes threw the winner of the 2000 presidential election into doubt for weeks. George W. Bush lost the popular vote but was able to defeat Al Gore and win the election by a minuscule margin in the electoral vote, 271 to 266.

That election resulted in seemingly endless recounts in New Mexico and Florida, until the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in gave the election to Bush by a 5-4 decision. It was finally determined that Mr. Bush had won Florida by only 537 votes and New Mexico by 366.

So don't think for one minute that your vote does not count. The French poet, essayist and philosopher Paul Valery once remarked that "politics is a means of preventing people from taking part in what properly concerns them." The same can be said for polls.

No one should allow the daily polls keep them from voting, Frequently they are intentionally designed to discourage people from voting. Remember: If you don't vote, someone with a different viewpoint will, and in the end they win and you lose.

Chuck Marks, Perry Hall

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