“This game is far from over.”
Every industry commits booboos, and the opinion polling industry is no exception.
The opinion polling industry has had its share of booboos, but none has surpassed the booboo it committed in connection with the U.S. Presidential election of 1948. I am impelled to bring that remarkable episode in U.S. political history to the recollection/notice of the 2022 Philippine electorate in the face of the opinion-polling firm Pulse Asia’s finding of a commanding lead—an unprecedented 37 points—by Ferdinand Marcos Jr., a.k.a. Bongbong Marcos, over his leading rival, Vice-President Leni Robredo.
The polling firm appears to have succeeded in conditioning—that’s the operative word—many voters regarding Mr. Marcos’s electoral prospects, to the point where a fellow-newspaper columnist titled a recent piece “Game Over.” Seriously? Is the 2022 Presidential game really over, with Bongbong Marcos the runaway winner? After reading what I am about to write regarding America’s 1948 presidential election—its first after World War II—millions of this country’s eligible voters may well decide that the 2022 presidential game is by no means over.
The Thomas Dewey in the title of this column was the standard-bearer of the Republican Party in the U.S. presidential election of 1948. His Democratic opponent was Harry Truman, who had succeeded the enormously popular Franklin Delano Roosevelt as Chief Executive upon the latter’s death in April 1945.
The contrast – and difference in electoral attractiveness—between President Truman and Mr. Dewey could not have been greater. Until President Roosevelt chose him as his running mate, Harry Truman, the junior senator from the midwestern state of Missouri, was not well-known nationally. An executive of a haberdashery firm prior to his election as senator, Harry Truman was self-effacing and lacked charisma.
By contrast, Thomas Dewey was a charming attorney who parlayed a successful career as New York state prosecutor to the governorship of the U.S.’s most important state. Truman had the advantage of being in the White House; and Dewey’s strength was his popularity. Many Democratic Party leaders wanted a standard bearer other than Harry Truman, but, as the incumbent, Mr. Truman had the strongest claim to his party’s nomination.
Given Governor Dewey’s greater popularity and the all-out support of the Republican Party—the party of Abraham Lincoln had been out of power since 1932 – President Truman went into the 1948 election as the clear underdog. Using today’s video-game language, the Republicans would have said “Game over” as Election Day neared.
Getting into the political mood of the day, Gallup Poll and the other opinion-survey firms weighed in with survey after survey indicating a commanding lead by Thomas Dewey over Harry Truman. By the time America’s voters trooped to the voting stations, the opinion-survey institutions had virtually conceded the election to the New York governor. In its final survey the biggest firm in the U.S. opinion-survey industry, Gallup Poll gave the election to Thomas Dewey.
So widespread, indeed, was the feeling that the Republican Party candidate was the incoming President that one of the leading U/S/ newspapers, the Chicago Tribune, actually began running an issue whose banner headline was “Dewey Wins.”
One cannot be too harsh with the opinion-survey industry of the U.S. for calling the 1948 Presidential election results so wrongly, in the process committing the biggest gaffe in the industry’s history. After all, the candidate that they said would win, Thomas Dewey, was a first-rate human being – decent, honest, God-fearing and possessed of a blemishless public record. Mr. Dewey totally deserved the commanding lead that the pre-election survey results said he enjoyed.
Contrast that with the commanding lead that Pulse Asia has reported Bongbong Marcos enjoys. Mr. Marcos has not a single one of the personal and professional attributes of Thomas Dewey. The difference between the two men is like the difference between day and night.
Notwithstanding the well-orchestrated attempts to condition Filipino voters’ minds that it is over, the 2022 presidential game is far from over.
Between now and Election Day, a ‘commanding lead’ can disappear. Gallup Poll and the other U.S. opinion surveys committed an enormous booboo in prematurely declaring Thomas Dewey the winner over Harry Truman. Bongbong Marcos appears to be well on the way to becoming the Philippines’ Thomas Dewey.