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HOLY COW! HISTORY: 1948, Political Polling’s Epic Fail

It’s been a bungee jump of a year in American politics. Last spring, the GOP seemed poised to ride a Red Tsunami in the coming midterm elections. Democrats rallied over the summer and appeared to have regained momentum. This fall, however, there was a Republican resurgence with the prevailing winds now apparently blowing in their direction.

And political pollsters were right there every step of the way telling us how this seesaw campaign season was playing out. They’re so ubiquitous, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting some new poll result.

Love them or hate them, they are impossible to ignore. Americans are addicted to soothsayers whose algorithms tell us with what vox the populi is about to speak.

Until, of course, they get it wrong. Consider 2016. On Monday, Nov. 7, many pollsters were predicting Hillary Clinton would win the presidency by a comfortable margin. On Wednesday, Nov. 9, they were frantically wiping egg off their faces.

But nothing can compare to polling’s great failure, the Mother of All Missed Calls, the 1948 presidential election.

It was supposed to have been a no-brainer. After all, Democrats had won control of Congress in 1930. Franklin Roosevelt was elected president in 1932 and then re-elected, and re-elected, and yet again re-elected. For nearly 20 years, Washington was their personal playground.

Until 1946, when Republicans seized both houses of Congress in a ballot box romp. Then the GOP turned its sights on Harry Truman.

Poor Harry. FDR would have been a hard act for any politician to follow. But a sizable number of Americans felt the Man from Missouri simply wasn’t up to the job. Tom Dewey was one of them.

The 46-year-old Republican governor of New York was viewed by many as a president in waiting. He had challenged Roosevelt in ’44 and had run a surprisingly close campaign. Dynamic and handsome (though his dark mustache had prompted GOP socialite Alice Roosevelt Longworth to dub him “the little man on the wedding cake”), his rich baritone voice sounded great on the radio.

“Dewey will be in till ’57,” one national news magazine confidently reported, taking for granted he would win 1952’s election before 1948’s was even held.

Putting money on a Truman victory was a sucker bet. Poll after poll backed that up. But there had been earlier warning signs that the new science’s methodology was still a work in progress. Its most famous flop was a much-ballyhooed 1936 survey by “Literary Digest” magazine predicting Republican Alf Landon would defeat FDR in a landslide. (The Kansas governor carried only Maine and Vermont.)

With Election Day 1948 nearing, all three of America’s leading pollsters — Crossley, Gallup and Roper —  agreed Dewey would win in a breeze.

They were all wrong.

Truman narrowly eked out the biggest upset in presidential history. It was close; but close was good enough. A grinning president couldn’t help holding up a copy of the Chicago Tribune (which was so certain of a Republican sweep it had gone to press before all the votes were counted) whose iconic headline blared “Dewey Defeats Truman” for photographers.

Historians have dubbed 1948 an utter fiasco for political polling. So, just what went wrong?

Plenty. For starters, interviewers were allowed back then to pick their own respondents without demographic screening first. Talk to too many Democrats or too many Republicans and the results were skewered.

There was also bad timing. As George Gallup Jr. later recalled, “We stopped polling a few weeks too soon.” That’s right; Dewey seemed such a lock to win many pollsters simply didn’t feel the need to waste resources confirming what everyone knew was going to happen.

Finally, there was the FDR Factor. The leading pollsters of the era had cut their teeth during the New Deal’s long run. Roosevelt was a deeply polarizing figure with people either passionately loving or furiously hating him.

But in 1948 not only was Roosevelt gone, but there were also four presidential candidates: Dewey, Truman, Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond and Progressive Henry Wallace. Their old “what do you think of him?” approach simply didn’t work in that dynamic.

Taken together, those problems combined to create a perfect storm for wildly off-the-mark forecasts.

It was such a disaster that Harry Truman became the patron saint for underdogs everywhere. “Look how he was underrated in ’48!” they still note with a whiff of desperation. Political pros have a rule of thumb that says whenever a candidate invokes Harry Truman in the closing days of a campaign, that candidate will have an unhappy election night.

And so it’s ironic that the candidate who proved pollsters wrong by pulling off the greatest come-from-behind win of all time is now a St. Jude for political lost causes.

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POLL: Americans Don’t Want Obscene Books in Their Kids’ School Libraries

A debate has raged across the Delaware Valley between parents and education officials over the presence of sexually-explicit books in school libraries. Now a new national poll finds most Americans are on the side of local upset moms and dads.

A new Rasmussen Research poll finds most voters don’t want obscene books in public school libraries.

The survey, in conjunction with the Capitol Resource Institute, of 1,000 likely voters conducted Sept. 20-21 found 77 percent are concerned school-age children are being exposed to sexual material that is not age-appropriate. Of those, 55 percent were very concerned. Only 20 percent were not concerned.

According to Rasmussen Research, it is an unusual issue on which people from all political and demographics agree. For example, 79 percent of Whites, 73 percent of Black and Hispanic voters, and 72 percent of other minorities were at least somewhat concerned that school-age children are being exposed to sexual material that is not age appropriate.

And 85 percent of Republicans, 56 percent of Democrats, and 69 percent of voters not affiliated with either major party believed it is very important that public schools fully inform parents about what is being taught to their children in classrooms.

The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points.

“From my experience on the school board and recently working with some parents, I believe this Rasmussen poll reflects the reality that a significant majority of parents want to know what is in the school libraries and what is being taught to their children,” said Bruce Chambers, former president of the Great Valley School Board. “The library issue is prominent in the Great Valley School District with the federal lawsuit filed by a mother regarding the sexual content of books in the library.

“You can also go to the Great Valley High School Library TikTok site and see that the librarian posts information about Queer Graphic Novels in the library. So, this issue is prominent in Great Valley and some information is available to parents, but it is not provided regularly by the administration.

“Those parents who have discovered the TikTok site have expressed their objections to the sexually explicit books in the library. Unfortunately, the administration and school board have not acknowledged the problem and, like in other issues, they ignore those whose tax dollars are paying for everything,” Chambers said.

Fenicia Redman, the mother who filed that suit, said, “This poll confirms what we all know: the majority of Americans, no matter their political affiliation, agree that obscene material, the kind I call out in my federal lawsuit have no place in public classrooms or school libraries. To quote a now deleted April 6, 2022 tweet by a Great Valley High School activist employee, ‘So called ‘literary value’ is a made up thing that doesn’t actually exist (or at least it doesn’t matter). There’s no such thing as ‘good books’ or ‘bad books.’  A book’s value can be determined solely by each reader for themselves,’ Knock Knock. Anybody home? You might want to brush up on 18 U.S.C 1470: Transfer of obscene material to minors before you show up in Federal Court.”

Jamie Walker, a Chalfont mother, said, “The (teachers’) union hated parental involvement in masking and in-person education. It really should come as no surprise they continue to believe parental involvement should be nonexistent.”

Megan Brock, a Northampton mom, said, “After two years of disrupted learning and unprecedented learning loss, parents want schools to focus on teaching students math, reading, history, and STEM. Parents understand the influential role schools play in their children’s lives and want transparency within schools, as they would with any person or environment they entrust their children.”

Parent Shannon Grady of Chester Springs said, “Yes, this issue is becoming a top priority for many parents across the political spectrum. The point on this issue is that the books in question contain obscene and explicit content that is not age appropriate for minors. Most agree that diversity of thought should be presented in schools but the selection of textbooks and supplementary materials in schools are to be used almost exclusively by minors. Schools have a vast number of options to select materials available to support and enrich the curriculum. The schools should prioritize materials that enrich the curriculum and choose materials that do not expose minor students to certain age-inappropriate content. Our goals are to have clearly defined criteria for the selection of textbooks and resource materials and content that do not include materials that are prohibited by criminal laws.”

The poll also showed 48 percent of parents and 68 percent of grandparents oppose public schools teaching children about homosexual lifestyles; 56 percent of parents and 74 percent of grandparents are opposed to public schools teaching kids about transsexualism. And 70 percent of parents and 74 percent of grandparents are against schools teaching kids how to perform sex acts.

Also, 55 percent of parents and 59 percent of grandparents believed children should not be exposed to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual lifestyles before age 14, the poll found.

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McSwain Campaign Shows Momentum, But Will It Survive Trump’s ‘Anti-Endorsement’?

With a little more than a month to go until Pennsylvania’s primary election, the only thing GOP voters have decided is that they haven’t decided anything.

In an EagleView poll released Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain has moved into second place in the race for the Republican nomination for governor, while state Sen. Doug Mastriano remains in first place.  The survey of 502 likely GOP voters showed Mastriano with 19 percent and McSwain with 12.7 percent. Former Congressman Lou Barletta dropped to third with 11 percent and Dave White, a former Delaware County councilman and small business owner, was fourth with 7 percent.

However, 44 percent remained undecided and the other five Republican candidates came in at less than 2 percent each.

McSwain’s surge happened before former President Donald Trump delivered his scathing anti-endorsement. “One person in Pennsylvania who I will not be endorsing is Bill McSwain for governor,” Trump said Tuesday. “He was the U.S. Attorney who did absolutely nothing on the massive election fraud that took place in Philadelphia and throughout the commonwealth.”

The question now is, how will Keystone State Republicans react?

“Our GOP poll can serve as a benchmark in the gubernatorial primary, coming as it did just prior to former Pres. Donald Trump’s unexpected smackdown of McSwain,” said Christopher Nicholas, veteran Republican political consultant and president of Eagle Consulting Group. “This poll shows the millions that McSwain and his backers have spent on TV ads is starting to boost his stock in the primary.”

White took advantage of Trump’s broadside against McSwain to release a new TV commercial titled “Never, Ever Vote for Bill McSwain.”


A new Franklin & Marshall College Center for Opinion Research poll also found McSwain in second place with 12 percent, trailing first-place finisher Mastriano with 15 percent of the vote. Barletta is in third place at 10 percent.

The F&M poll also found a large number of Republicans –40 percent — still undecided.

“We have been blessed to be consistently ahead in most of the polls since last May, with the lead growing since this past November, when a Democrat Legislative Committee Poll (DLCC) confirmed my lead two months before my announcement of entering the gubernatorial race,” said Mastriano.  “We are thankful to have the support of the people from around the state.  Several of the other campaigns have spent literally millions of dollars to boost their names, only to remain in the single digits.  What we are seeing in this campaign cycle is breaking all the norms.  This is because of the suffering that we endured over the past year.”

“People are looking for demonstrated and proven leadership, not just more empty talk, and meaningless slogans.  The key difference is that of all the gubernatorial candidates, Doug Mastriano was the only one that stood and fought for people’s families, businesses, livelihoods, and freedoms.  When they hear the hollow promises of others, they walk away saying, where have you been and what have you done?  Our vision for Pennsylvania is to restore freedom, rebuild families and to revive the economy.  We are together looking forward to a new day for PA where we can once again walk as free people,” Mastriano said..

“We are proud to have the support of conservative patriots from across the commonwealth who share Bill’s vision for a safer, freer, more secure Pennsylvania,” said James Fitzpatrick, McSwain’s campaign manager. “Bill’s growing strength among primary voters confirms that Pennsylvanians are ready to nominate a conservative outsider who will fight for them as governor. A McSwain primary victory is just weeks away.”

Only one Democrat is running for governor, Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

The F&M poll also included the Democrats vying for the U.S. Senate nomination.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is in first place with 41 percent; Congressman Conor Lamb has 17 percent and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta was at 4 percent. Nine percent of respondents said someone else, 2 percent said none, and 26 percent said they do not know.

F&M U.S. Senate primary poll

Conversely, 43 percent of the Republicans polled said they did not know who they will vote for Senate.

The poll put Dr. Mehmet Oz in the lead with 16 percent, and former hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick in second at 15 percent. Commentator Kathy Barnette came in third at 9 percent and former Ambassador Carla Sands was fourth at 5 percent, with Philadelphia lawyer George Bochetto at 2 percent.

The F&M poll lists a sample error rate of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.

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