The Intelligence Service of the
Ballot Box Wars
Polling, claims Democratic pollster Alan Secrest, is best used to determine "where to employ a campaign's limited resources." 1 In contemporary campaigns, polling provides campaigns with feedback. However, unlike the feedback which we normally receive, that is, feedback provided through spontaneous responses to the messages we send, the feedback we receive from polling is planned. When planned and executed well, polling provides solid information upon which decisions affecting the entire campaign can be confidently made. For that reason, polling has become, in the words of Republican pollster Frank Luntz, "the indispensable ingredient in the modem political campaign." 2 It was not always so.
Although there is evidence of prior unpublished survey work done in the United States, the first published political poll in the United States appeared in the Harrisburg Pennsylvanian, in 1824. Based on a straw vote conducted in Wilmington, Delaware, "without discrimination of parties," the Pennsylvanian predicted Andrew Jackson would win the presidency over John Quincy Adams. Jackson did win the popular vote, such as that presumably surveyed in this poll, though as we saw in the preceding chapter, the election was thrown into the House of Representatives. 3 From 1824 onward, straw polls such as these were frequently commissioned and reported on by newspapers. 4 Similarly, often travelers were asked to register their presidential preferences when they registered at hotels. 5 Although they provided some insight into the "horse race"