The American voter – probably the largest slice of humanity that is the most unpredictable on earth. Despite every effort at perfecting the poll, every technological advance, every pundit offering a prediction based on “reasonably accurate data”, the results are never as they first appear. And it’s been that way since elections first took place.
Not taking into consideration allegations of voter fraud, election tampering, hacking and sheer apathy, being able to accurately predict how an election will turn out has been impossible – despite all best efforts and “swear-on-a-stack-of-bibles” reliable information – it has never happened.
Probably the most glaring example of misinterpreting the national pulse was during the 1948 Presidential election. Republican Presidential nominee Thomas Dewey was predicted to be the hands-down winner – in some corners by a landslide, over Democratic incumbent Harry Truman. Truman was suffering from probably the worst approval ratings of most any President in the 20th century and his defeat was predicted to be a slam-dunk, even by members of his own party.
This broadcast, a discussion program from the weekly Chicago University Roundtable focuses on why people vote the way they do; what factors influence their choices, and ultimately how unpredictable those choices are. The irony is that this program original aired on October 10, 1948, a little less than a month away from the election, and even then the prevailing opinion was Truman would not get another term as President. And of course the vagaries of the American people proved, once again, that nothing is a sure bet until all the votes are counted and that often a mind is made up or changed once the voter is inside that booth.
As a reminder, here is that episode of Chicago University Roundtable as it originally aired on October 10, 1948.