COMMENTARY | One of the largest gatherings of Christian conservatives assembled near Independence Hall in Philadelphia. They may well be praying that current polls are as bad as they were in 1936.
Usually when that many people gather to call upon a higher power, it’s for the Philadelphia Eagles to have a turnover-free football game. But instead, these faithful have come out to pray for America. And though the organizers, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Pat Robertson of the Christian Coalition, didn’t say they were praying against Obama, a speaker did blame the scores of dead birds in Arkansas on Obama’s gays in the military policy.
What Republicans are really hoping this month is that the polls showing Obama’s overall lead, and widening lead in the polls in swing states and therefore the Electoral College, are all wrong. There are sites accusing the polls of bias, and others insisting that Romney is really leading by 11 percentage points, which is why Romney still looks pretty confident, no doubt.
Back in 1936, the Literary Digest released a poll showing Alf Landon of Kansas would trounce President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 by a 60 to 40 percent margin. People believed it because the Literary Digest had correctly predicted the elections in 1916, 1920, 1924, 1928 and 1932.
The only problem was that the polling had a built in GOP bias. Postcards were mailed to telephone directories and automobile registration lists, a sample which leaned definitely Republican. That’s why they correctly predicted the GOP landslides of 1920, 1924 and 1928. But in 1932, everyone (even the GOP) wanted the Republican candidate Hoover gone.
Yet the Republicans who had the luxury of a car and phone didn’t like paying FDR’s taxes wanted Landon. Almost everyone else who was too poor to have either item loved the New Deal. That’s why FDR won reelection by a 60-40 margin, taking all but two tiny New England states in the Electoral College. An embarrassed Literary Digest, victim of an “epic fail,” went out of business shortly thereafter.
Some Republicans are convinced that only Rasmussen Polls is sampling everyone right, and they’ve resampled all other polls, showing Romney in the lead. We’ll see on Election Day if this is another shocking Literary Digest fiasco from the set of polls that we’ve seen in the media.
John A. Tures is an associate professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga.