Predicting voting results can be iffy business

Matt Pommer • Wisconsin Newspaper Association

In the final days of the 1982 gubernatorial campaign Democrats began running television ads showing newspaper editorials backing their candidate Tony Earl.

The TV scrolled showing the headlines on the editorials and the name of the newspaper. Many of the editorials came from papers usually identified as Republican.

Earl defeated Terry Kohler, the Republican candidate, by nearly 135,000 votes. Kohler and his wife Mary were popular figures in the Republican Party and he had the support of the GOP establishment.

Earl had served a stint as secretary of the Dept. of Natural Resources, and that was seen as a handicap in a statewide election.

This year a number of longtime Republican newspapers like the Dallas Morning News, the Arizona Republic, and the Cincinnati Enquirer have disavowed Republican candidate Donald Trump.

He responded by saying people would be “really smart” if they stopped their subscriptions to the newspapers. Seldom has a candidate for national office sug- gested readers stop buying critical newspapers.

USA Today printed an editorial saying Trump “lacks the temperament, knowledge, steadiness and honesty” needed in a president.

“It’s not much of a newspaper,” Trump responded.

It’s not just newspaper editorials that are under criticism. Charlie Sykes, the popular conservative radio talk-show personality, has said his listeners can be angry when he doesn’t simply parrot what is alleged on Facebook and Twitter accounts.

All this may suggest that most people think they have made their voting decisions for president. Aside from the two major parties, the polls show a significant number of voters are thinking about a third party candidate or not voting in the presidential race.

Early-voting opportunities are provided in much of Wisconsin, an opportunity initially developed as a way to have more people vote and participate in the election process. It gives both parties an early start in their getting their people to vote.

Trump partisans may be angry at newspaper editorial and talk radio but they should not be discouraged. In many presidential election years, people are slow in deciding how to cast their votes.

Polls show many people are uneasy or unhappy with both Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

In 1948 just 15 percent of newspaper editorials supported President Truman. Some columnists were even predicting who would be appointed to help Gov. Tom Dewey run the country.

Truman would win the election, embarrassing newspaper editors. The Chicago Tribune’s early street-sale edition carried the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman.”

Postelection results showed that 14 percent of those who voted for Truman had decided to vote for him in the two weeks before Election Day.

Will that be repeated in 2016?

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