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Voters: Take a Chill Pill

Given a choice between making a free long-distance call to God or ringing up one of nine living or dead celebrities, six in 10 Americans said they would telephone God, according to an online survey by Harris Interactive of 2,719 adults conducted last month.

Eleven percent said they would call President Bush, while 4 percent said they wanted to speak with Sen. John Kerry. (The poll was conducted before the first presidential debate.)

_____Unconventional Wisdom_____
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E-mail Rich Morin at morinr@washpost.com.

Here's how some of the other phone pals fared: Abraham Lincoln (5 percent), Albert Einstein (5 percent), Bill Gates (5 percent), Marilyn Monroe (3 percent) and Hillary Clinton (3 percent). Two percent said they would ring up Elvis or Martha Stewart.

The Harris call-to-God poll is not our favorite heavenly survey, however.

In 2001, ABC News and Beliefnet, a Web site that provides news and discussion of spiritual issues, asked a random sample of Americans if they thought pets went to heaven. The results, as summarized by polling analyst Dalia Sussman in an ABC press release:

"Is there a chew toy waiting for Sparky behind the pearly gates? Americans, and even pet owners, are not so sure . . . Forty-three percent in an ABC News/Beliefnet poll think pets go to heaven when they die. But about as many, 40 percent, think heaven is reserved for people only. The rest are withholding judgment, possibly until Judgment Day."

Amen, and pass the phone. I'm calling Sparky.

Father Flight

A sickly baby significantly increases the chance that the father will soon leave the family, said researcher Nancy E. Reichman of the pediatrics department at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.

"Having a child with poor health decreases the probability that the parents live together by 9 to 10 percentage points" after a year to 18 months of the child's life, Reichman and her colleagues reported in the August issue of Demography.

They analyzed data collected from the parents of more than 3,000 newborns. About 5 percent of these babies had a serious health problem, which included having a birth weight of less than four pounds, a reported chronic disease or disability or being unable to crawl or walk by the time they reached 18 months.

morinr@washpost.com


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