Jay Cronley: Polls make politicians lazy on public opinion
BY JAY CRONLEY World Staff Columnist
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
8/21/12 at 4:37 AM
Polls could be a chief reason why there are so few great leaders. Natural talent goes missing.
The first thing a politician thinks after waking up in the morning is: I wonder what will play in the polls today?
Politicians act on what's popular. But who said what's popular is the best or smartest way?
Most great leaders have one thing in common: money, and truckloads of it. Interestingly enough, it's the people with the most money who turn out to be the best leaders through their actions directed toward education and quality of life improvements.
The great leaders of the past took polls after they made decisions based on personal skills, not public opinion.
In search of voters: I used to be a poll-taker for the afternoon newspaper here and remember being caught late one night in the small Oklahoma town of Coyle, a few ballots short of a required load and nary a registered voter in sight.
These low-budget polls seemed about as scientific as buying a lottery ticket. But most of the polls came within percentage points of the final outcomes.
The key to this poll was finding truthful registered voters who were going to vote.
Anything that went against a deeply rooted and almost creepily consistent historical pattern set off an upset alert.
After dark in small towns, bars and the police station were about the only things open.
Polling didn't get much better than to have the last ballot filled out by a bartender.
Polls that sway: There are two kinds of polls, entry polls and exit polls.
Opinion and voter preference polls taken before an election show staffs where to dig for an opponent's weaknesses.
Exit polls are a reflection of the way a person just voted.
Precinct samples are turned into projections that are accurate more often than not. Making a television network look good should be the last of a voter's concerns.
There's little doubt that some polls influence voters. Some think a vote for an underdog in a poll is a wasted vote and stay home.
Some polls are just plain nuts.
There's one poll that measures the interests of registered voters who do not plan to vote: Obama was far ahead.
Here's something to think about at the height of the poll season. Perhaps if the candidates didn't know everything we thought, they'd become better leaders.
The majority opinion is not always the best measuring stick.
Ask the bookies.
Original Print Headline: Polls do more than show what's popular