Opinion Polls and Elections

Recent polls showing Vice President George Bush leading Dukakis by minimal to substantial margins in the race for President inspired me to dig into my memorabilia and resurrect two (poorly preserved) clippings from the Cincinnati Post of 40 years ago, when President Harry Truman was running for reelection against his Republican rival, Thomas L. Dewey.

The first six-column headline reads: “Elmo Roper Says: It Will Take a Miracle to Beat Governor Dewey.” The second, appearing after that upset election, states: “Elmo Roper Says: I Simply Do Not Know What Happened!”

While modern polling techniques are probably more scientific and reliable than those of 40 years ago, and this year’s polls may indeed prove more valid, it is still interesting to note the comparison between these two presidential contests.

In the Sept. 9, 1948, Roper poll, Dewey led Truman 44.2% to 31.4%. The “don’t knows” came to 15.4%. In his apologia, Roper theorized that the “don’t know” vote may have gone to Truman.


So much for polls. Can history repeat itself?