The current Presidential campaign is wrought with turmoil, twists, and turns. Each day, we hear of the latest poll results in the same manner trends in the financial markets are reported. Tortoise Tales is not a political column so these comments do not indicate our support of one party or candidate over another. This is my opportunity to tell our readers what I recall about the poll, during the 1960 campaign, in which I was a participant and to compare that experience with what's happening this year.


During the week of the Los Angeles Democratic convention, Gallup conducted a national poll that some historians deem to be significance in effecting the results of that primary election. The pollster said their sample selected alternating residences in my neighborhood. They did not inquire as to political party, only if the person polled was a registered voter.


I had strong opinions about the issues but I confess I didn't know which candidates reflected those ideals. The polltaker read from a long list of questions carefully noting my opinion on many issues and ended with a summation question. We were asked how we would rank the five contending Democratic candidates. They were not asking us to rank candidates from other parties although the preliminary questions included issues that were advanced that year by all political parties.


The five options were; JFK, LBJ, Adlai Stevenson II, Hubert Humphrey, and Stuart Symington. Johnson, the Senate Majority Leader, and Stevenson, the former Senator from Illinois, were the establishment powerhouses and at that time; JFK was relatively unknown. I don't remember how I ranked all except that I choose Stevenson first because I was favorable to his reputation from when we lived in Chicago and I tagged LBJ last because I thought his reputation of being an arm-twister unseemly for a statesman. This was nave on my part.


The next morning, as delegates to the convention were gathering, it was reported that Gallup determined that more people would vote for John F. Kennedy than Lyndon B. Johnson. I was stunned. So what? Five people were listed in the poll. What about those of us who preferred others more than JFK? I had selected JFK before LBJ too, but I felt my selections were misrepresented because the headlines could have been interpreted to mean that I, as one of the people being polled, preferred JFK before all other candidates.


I no longer give my opinion to any strangers collecting data for any kind of public opinion poll. I keep my opinions for occasions when I am sure that I have the opportunity to fully explain myself to people who won't be inclined to tweak my ideas to fit the agendas of others. I prefer my political opinions being counted in the secret ballot on Election Day in the only poll that matters.


I may be an opinion poll drop-out, but there are many other folks who like to be asked. Collecting opinion samples in the computer age is touted as increasingly scientific. It's certainly swifter. During the televised debates prospective voters were subjected to monitoring of their brain waves. It sounds barbaric. Electronic probes record impulses measuring how statements from the candidates appeal to them in real time while newscasters were given the results as quickly as the computers could quantify the results. Who designed the programs that evaluated the input data? Wouldn't those participating prefer to be asked than to be probed? Isn't this all just too simple, too quick and too much?


Certainly we voters are more sophisticated than to choose a candidate exclusively by knee-jerk emotional responses or by a herd instinct that might persuade us to vote because we are told that most people are voting that way. I think this characterization is true regardless of whether we live down the hill or on the High Desert.


I would no sooner choose a candidate based on polls than select stocks based on daily bullish or bearish trends. On Election Day, we will choose the candidate we deserve. Let's hope that will be the best candidate to direct us through these volatile times and one who is responsive to the voters. We deserve good representative government.