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Latarski: Poll season is upon us
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Now that we see Mitt Romney has all but sealed the deal on getting the Republican nomination for president, we will now embark on the glut of the poll season.

Just as Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, for reasons unknown the June polls - especially if the parties lock up their candidates - have become the true kickoff season for summer campaigning.

People, most notably the so-called experts, will scrutinize, analyze and over analyze the various polls, then appear on the various talks shows and speak with great authority on what it all means.

The problem is that they are as generally clueless as the guys making up the polls to pick the preseason national champion in college football - and we know how well that usually works out.

Just as an example, John Kerry lead George W. Bush by a substantial margin in the June Gallup and CBS polls and was a tie in the ABC poll.

And people forget the June Gallup poll that had Jimmy Carter an eight point favorite over Ronald Reagan.

The thing about polls is that they are statistical analysis which means they have a plus or minus margin of error.

This is most important thing you have to learn when studying statistics: the correct answer is the one that is the least wrong. Some folks had to take statistics three times in college before figuring that out.

Polls give everyone something to talk about when there is nothing else to talk about.

And if someone hits a winner out of the blue it can make a pollster look genius. The one guy who picked Jimmy Carter to win the first time lived off that immaculate guess for 30 years.

The key is how the questions are framed and sometimes they are not simple, straightforward questions as to who you would choose.

And sometimes questions are purely speculative in hopes of getting a feel for the attitude of the people.

Something like: Would you vote for President Obama over Mitt Romney if it was discovered Romney had four wives but subsequently change your mind if it was determined he was faithful to all of them and it was revealed Obama had a mistress in Opp, Ala.?

At this point, you plan on writing in Andrew Jackson. But if this is ever a poll question, no matter how it turns out, don't be surprised if Newt Gingrich argues the results means he needs to get back in the race.

Polls are basically exercises in fortune telling, so perhaps the times has come for ignoring the expert polls and finding another trend predictor.

After all, despite all the high class technology when it comes to the weather forecasting, even the folks at The Weather Channel have to take a backseat to the groundhog once a year.

Ouija boards and Tarot cards are probably not acceptable for professional pollsters but would certainly be more interesting to watch than a phone bank.

And who would not tune in to a Sunday morning news show if they brought in an astrologer or gypsy in with a crystal ball.

Maybe someone should break out the quatrains and see what ol' Nostradamus has to say about the election.

The difference between a poll and a pole is that most poles have a real use, some with signs on them to which you need to pay attention.

This is not to suggest polls are totally useless. They can be interesting and sometimes even accurate, as long as you approach them with the same enthusiasm as taking a spoonful of Castor oil. The medicine may help, but sometimes it's hard to swallow.

As for the upcoming election and future predictions? I just wonder how good the groundhog is when it comes to politics.


Ric Latarski is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics and can be reached at