The Pollsters: Public Opinion, Politics and Democratic Leadership

By Linday Rogers | Go to book overview

Chapter 17:
Mentions incidental matters, such as
Pressure Groups, Polling as an aid to Ad-
ministrative Officials, and Local Polls.

AMONG THE SMALLER DUTIES of life," wrote Sydney Smith,

"I hardly know any one more important than that of not praising where praise is not due."
Well, one should praise when there is merit, and some achievements of which the pollsters boast do merit enconiums.

Public-opinion polls can debunk the claims of a pressure group as to the amount of strength behind it. Thus, when the Townsend Plan was talked about a good deal and some congressmen were alarmed about what they thought might be the wishes of their constituents, polls showed that the alleged support for old‐ age pensions of two hundred dollars a month was grossly exaggerated, and predicted that in 1938 California would vote against "Ham and Eggs every Thursday." 1 The Townsend proposal, however, was so absurd that

____________________
1
Interviewed by Ben Grauer, Dr. Gallup on November 7, 1948, made a statement over a national network of the National Broadcasting Company:

Gallup: If you delve far back into our records, you'll find that we ourselves have put a black mark against our name in connection with the "Ham and Eggs" election in California in 1938. Our polling showed that the so-called Ham n' Eggs proposition would be turned down by an overwhelming majority. But, we were wrong. Dr. Townsend's Ham n' Eggs [$I2O, not $2OO a month]

-188-

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