Pity the pollsters

By David Talbot
Published October 28, 2004 7:52PM (EDT)

If you're feeling emotionally whipsawed by the polls, maybe it's time to start ignoring them. That's exactly what more and more Americans are doing when pollsters try to reach them, according to a lengthy report in today's Washington Post. Which is one reason the polls are so flat-out weird this year. "In some surveys, less than one in five calls produces a completed interview -- raising doubts whether such polls accurately reflect the views of the public or merely report the opinions of stay-at-home Americans who are too bored, too infirm or too lonely to hang up," reports the Post.

Only about 38 percent of the people contacted by pollsters are cooperating with them these days -- and that's for polls conducted over several days. The cooperation rate can plummet into the teens for surveys carried out in a single night, according to a Stanford University study cited in the Post.

Isn't it encouraging to know that in our market-tested, focus-grouped democracy, there will still be surprises on Election Day?

David Talbot

David Talbot, the founder of Salon, is the author of New York Times bestsellers like "Brothers," "The Devil's Chessboard," and "Season of the Witch." His most recent book is "Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of My Stroke."

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