posted on September 17, 2013 17:16
A while back a candidate running for office for the first time sat down in my office and said, What should I do? and I said: Take a poll.
For a moment he didn’t say a word then he smiled and said he already knew what voters in his district thought – which is exactly what most candidates say. Of course, most of them are simply confusing what they think with what voters think.
So I tried to explain why a poll might be helpful, saying, I am an older white conservative male and in my world almost all my friends are older white conservative males too and, sometimes, I understand what they think but I don’t have a clue what a thirty-eight year old single working mother thinks.
Last Sunday my friends down at the newspaper wrote their own version of a candidate saying, ‘I know what voters think,’ and it was a great story, starting with a reporter talking to the cashier at the “Goober Pea’s Country Store” in Boone then tracking the elusive heartbeat of North Carolina politics through three State House districts.
But, when you come right down to it, it was a reporter telling what he thinks voters think and, of course, the tides and currents of politics are devilish varmints capable of easily eluding even the most astute journalist.
To trap those same varmints a pollster would tell you he’d have to take three polls – one in each district – that each interviewed 400 people who precisely reflected the exact demographics of the district (the correct number of Republicans, Democrats, young men, old women, minorities, and single working mothers).
The newspaper’s portrait of the heartbeat of North Carolina politics was fine storytelling – but it wasn’t really the way to trap an elusive varmint.