Let's take a poll:
Do you support abolishing polls?
BY JERRY EMANUEL
Are you fed up with polls yet? I am!
Everywhere you look, one organization or another is calling people to see wh at they think on a variety of topics ranging from the brand of cake mix you use to your opinion on the death penalty to your choice of deodorant. The most abused survey, in my opinion, is the exit poll after an election.
Knowing almost immediately how someone voted is like telling me who done it before Murder, She Wrote names the killer. It's like giving me the punchline to a joke before the comedian delivers the first line. I don't want to know. And when it comes to elections, knowing who won or who should win may determine how someone votes.
In past national elections the television networks have named the winner based on exit polls before the polls closed in the western states, Hawaii and American Samoa. Citizens on the west coast asked themselves why they should buck the traffic, stand in long lines or go out in inclement weather to vote when the outcome had already been decided. So they stayed home and said, "My vote won't change the outcome anyway."
Let's get closer to home. Here in South Carolina the polls pointed to a win for George W. Bush in the presidential race. If a voter relied exclusively on the polls why would anyone but Bush supporters vote? Why would supporters of Al Gore, Pat Buchanan, Harry Browne, Ralph Nader, John Hagelin, Howard Phillips, Denny Lane, Earl Dodge and the rest bother to vote since the polls said their candidate will surely lose? "South Carolina is Bush country," was the cry. According to the polls, the other candidates didn't stand a snowball's chance in Hell of winning in South Carolina. I read recently an editorial that praised the electoral college as an example of why our system works. The writer said it gave small states the same power as the big states, and that in order to get our eight electoral votes candidates have to visit and campaign here. He went on to say that if we chose our leaders by popular votes there would be no need for a candidate to campaign in states with few electoral votes like Rhode Island, Mississippi or South Carolina.
If we chose our leaders by popular vote, every vote would count and would go into the column of the candidate of choice. The polls could still show support for one candidate or another but it wouldn't make as much of a difference because other candidates would also get votes. It wouldn't be winner take all.
Unless we go back to the thrilling days of yesteryear and political conventions that went beyond rubber-stamping a candidate who already had been chosen through primaries, polling services will continue to flourish. May they grow and prosper. I just want them to concentrate on who eats what brand of oatmeal and to stay out of the political arena.
Don't forget, if it weren't for the exit polls in Florida, the election might have been over Nov. 7 instead of dragging on for more than 30 days.
Jerry Emanuel is a former reporter/sports director at WOLO-TV in Columbia.