The first step is admitting I have a problem.
Illustration: Megan Mericle
My name is James. I’m writing this at my weekly PWA (Poll Watchers Anonymous) meeting, where election junkies like myself gather to discuss our common addiction. We drool at the prospect of new election polls being released. It may not wreak bodily havoc like alcoholism or drug addiction, but it’s an equally difficult habit to break.
I developed this disease in college. One of my degrees was in political science. Yes, I earned a B.S. in BS in 2000, the year of Y2K. Then I faithfully watched the BS presidential election in 2000, which would become better known as the year of the hanging chad.
I’ve paid close attention to every presidential election since then. The addiction intensifies during presidential election years. Yes, November is eight months away, but that doesn’t stop me from Googling “latest polls” several times a day or checking the polling averages on the website realclearpolitics.com. As the election draws closer, my habit likely will increase to a dozen times a day. And while most Americans are sipping their morning coffee, I’m checking to see if any new polls were released between midnight and 7am.
I have to remember that different polling methodologies will yield different results. Thus, poll-a-holics can endure a roller coaster of emotions in a matter of minutes.
“And in the latest news, the Rasmussen poll just released has (my candidate) up by four points.”
I delude myself. “Yes, that’s the most legitimate poll out there!”
Then I flip to another news channel.
“The Washington Post-ABC News poll has (my candidate) down two points nationally and trailing in three important battleground states.”
I delude myself again. “Meh. That poll samples too many voters from the other party and never enough from my party!”
Actually, polls can miss the mark. Last year’s governor’s race in Florida between Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum is a great example. Gillum led in 33 of the 36 polls taken between late August and early November. In fact, one poll released on election eve showed Gillum with a seven-point lead. Guess what? DeSantis won by 32,463 votes.
Polls also can be predictable. We know a presidential candidate will receive a bounce in the polls after choosing a running mate, speaking at his party’s national convention or having a good debate performance. Similarly, a gaffe on the campaign trail could temporarily send his poll numbers plummeting.
But even if polls are flawed and predictable, dammit, they’re exciting. I mean, when our candidate is leading, it’s validation that our political views are what is best for America. Secondly, I can celebrate and take pleasure in seeing the disappointed faces of those on the other side of the political aisle. Third, I can prematurely envision whom my candidate is going to put on the Supreme Court, how he’s going to improve health coverage and how he’s going to handle domestic and foreign terrorists.
Wow, just reading what I typed is proof that I need help. After the 2020 election, I’m going to begin a 12-step program. Hopefully, by the midterm elections in 2022, I can stop my addiction cold turkey.
I just hope they have patches by then.