Polling is starting to cast a pall
Unlike most of America, which is tuned in to the latest on Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Mary Kate and Ashley and the like, I'm following the presidential primaries closely. The emphasis seems to be on "the polls".
There are poll-polls and there are exit polls. Exit polls are those taken when people conducting polls interview voters as they leave the voting places. That, I understand, even though I've never been polled when I exited a polling place.
It's the poll-polls that I don't understand.
I have never been poll-polled, and I don't know anyone who has. The closest I've ever come was about a week ago when I got a call from a woman who said she was not selling anything, but was conducting a survey.
"I know nothing, I have no opinion and I have no friends," I replied.
"Thank you very much," she replied, and hung up.
(Thank you, Janie Magee, for that line.)
People I talk to tell me they disengage themselves from these sales/survey calls, in a variety of sometimes extremely creative ways; so who is responding to those calls and where are all the numbers coming from that result in the latest poll?
Someone so bored they'll talk to a telemarketer/ surveyor for entertainment? Is that individual representative of a cross-section of America? I think not - I hope not.
Tim Russert, Washington bureau chief and host of NBC's Meet the Press, is having so much fun with this campaign he can't wipe the grin off his face. I may have to e-mail him and ask him how they come up with these poll figures. Surely he'll know.
If any of you out there in Reader Land have ever been poll-polled, would you let me know? I'd really like to hear from someone who has actually responded to a poll-poll. Otherwise, I'm thinking they're like UFOs - a figment of someone's imagination.
And, now that we're having this conversation, what is the purpose of the polls? I can only conclude that polls are for people who read a magazine from back to front, or those who read the last few pages of a book before deciding to check it out from the library or buy it at the book store. They must be the people who have their fortunes told so they know how their lives will end up before they have to go to the trouble of living their lives not knowing who they'll marry, how many kids they'll have and when and how they'll die.
With polls, you don't even need to vote or wait until November to find out who the next president will be. The polls will tell us that before the first Tuesday of November. If we have to go to the trouble of voting, we'll at least be able to vote for the winning candidate. Who wants to go home a loser?
One way or another, my bet is that we're going to make history come November. Odds are that we are going to have the first black person, woman, Morman or former POW in the Oval Office. Even so, between now and November, we're going to hear a lot about polls from people who can't wait to know the identity of the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Frankly, I feel a little sorry for the people who are conducting these telephone polls. They've got to make a living, and I don't want to hurt their feelings, but I don't want to waste my time.
So, the next time I get a call from someone who wants my opinion, I'm ready.
I'm going to employ the page I took out of Janie Magee's book or, for a little variety, say, "I'm a 50-something menopausal woman with a hangover who had to wake up to answer a phone call from a stranger. Do you really want to know what I think?"
Either one should let them, and me, off the hook.
Mary Henkel Judson is editor and copublisher of the South Jetty. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.