Needed: A Break From Pollsters

A poll on pollsters would no doubt reveal people hate polls

According to a Politico story titled “GOP Looks For Answers,” the National Republican Congressional Committee is taking major steps to prevent a repeat of the misleading results from pollsters that embarrassed the party in the 2012 election cycle.

While I wouldn’t want the GOP to face the Democrats flying blind, I think a better way to achieve a level playing field would be for EVERYONE to embark on a bold experiment and swear off pollsters, consultants and analysts for the next five years or so. Yes, a reprieve from “consumer confidence,” “margin of error” and “Hey, you —living from paycheck to paycheck—would you be willing to send a hypothetical unmarried Jew with diverticulitis to the White House three years from now?”

Sure, candidates working without a net might become even more timid and mealy mouthed; but shorn of all the demographic mumbo jumbo, they might just let it all hang out, proclaiming “Take me as I am, warts and all.” Either way, the possibility of surprises sounds exhilarating.

I know, I know. The candidates need cutting-edge software to make the most efficient allocation of limited campaign funds. So these frugal statesmen employ a reputable survey team (“Nosey Research: Proudly Helping Politicians Ignore Entire States Since 1946”), get elected and make efficient use of public funds for The Bridge To Nowhere, The Highway To The Pearly Mussel Shrine, The Hiking Trail To Manti Te’o’s Imaginary Girlfriend’s House…

The politicians think they’re just “taking the pulse of the electorate,” but whenever the public servants get too much information on taxpayers, “taking the pulse” winds up feeling more like a daily Mammogram/Prostate Exam Combo Deal.

Somehow or another the nation survived a long time without district-by-district breakdowns and sophisticated strategies. What if the trend of fine-tuning just the right buzz words and tailor-made promises had come sooner? There’s little George Washington, caught red-handed with his hatchet and the cherry tree. (“Father, I cannot tell a lie: the One Percent did it!”) Or Abe Lincoln remarking, “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time; but you can bet that as long as it’s FOR THE CHILDREN, we can take this to a whole new level.”

Most public figures deserve a second chance in life, but pollsters are aiding and abetting some unsavory characters when they help determine all the right things to say to make a “rebranding” campaign resonate with key segments of the population. Can we really take pride in a country where any day now we can expect to see a serial adulterer re-launched with “Hittin’ the union-made sheets nightly”?

Some pollsters do have a conscience and humbly try putting their efforts into perspective. (“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only—Hold on! I’ve got to wait on the results of a focus group of women aged 18 to 49 and their reaction to Vince Lombardi quotes…”)

To be sure, polling is an honorable profession. But no other honorable professionals (whether accountant, teacher or doctor) ever call me at MEALTIME to ask, “Overflowing, antiquated sewage treatment plants, maggot-infested Indian orphans and beheaded Coptic Christians: how would you rank each of those factors in the local race for dog catcher? Sir, sir…what’s that retching sound?”

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