There was a time in this country when a person's vote was his or her own business. But that was before someone invented the "Exit Poll." The Exit Poll is taken as the voter leaves the booth on Election Day and makes it possible for the TV commentators to tell us what group voted for which candidate and why. It does nothing for the voting process, but it helps fill time on the air.
This is how the exit poll works. As Gradeson steps out of the voting booth at Public School 35, pollsters from the three major networks close in on him.
"Are you Jewish?" one of the pollsters asks.
"No, I'm not Jewish."
"You don't look Jewish," another pollster says. "Italian?"
"I'm not Italian. Hey, what's going on here?"
"Spanish American?" the third pollster asks.
"My great-grandfather was Irish and my great-grandmother came from Wales."
"Catholic or Church of England?"
"I happen to be a Christian Scientist."
"Great," says the first pollster. "We don't have anything on the Christian Science vote yet. Mind telling us how much you make a year?"
"I certainly do."
"Over $35,000 or under? You don't have to give us the exact figure."
"Listen, I'm illegally parked and if you don't mind . . ."
"Are you a college graduate?"
"I do happen to be a college graduate."
"Good, now just tell us your age and we'll get down to business."
"I'm 34. Who are you guys?"
"We'll ask the questions. Are you a registered Democrat or Republican?"
"I happen to be a Republican."
"That's better. The more you play ball with us the easier it will be on you."
Another pollster says, "Tell us who you voted for, Reagan or Bush?"
"I think that is my Business."
"It happens to be ours too. We have to get this information on the evening news, so just stop stalling."
"I happened to vote for George Bush."
"Do I have to tell you why I voted for Bush?"
"Of course. It doesn't mean anything if you just voted for Bush. The viewers have to know why the Christian Science vote is going for him."
"I voted for Bush because I didn't want to vote for Reagan."
"So your vote wasn't pro-Bush, it was anti-Reagan?"
"I also happen to like Bush."
"Why don't you like Reagan? Is it his age or is it that you don't trust him?"
"I don't dislike Reagan. I just think Bush would have a better chance of beating Carter."
"Then your Bush vote was actually an anti-Carter vote?"
"No, it was a Bush vote. It stands to reason if I'm Republican I would like to see Carter beaten."
"Are you against Carter because of the way he's been handling foreign affairs or domestic ones?"
"Both. Now may I go?"
"How many bathrooms do you have in your home?"
That night Gradeson turned on his set to watch the evening news. The announcer said, "Early returns show that while Reagan and Bush are still running neck and neck, Bush is running surprisingly strong in the Christian Science neighborhoods by a margin of two to one, particularly with college graduates making over $35,000 a year who own their own homes and have an average of two-and-a-half children. Bush's strategy of concentration on Christian Science Reading Rooms apparently paid off, but Reagan campaigners were not willing to concede the state mainly because Reagan was taking the 'Moonie' vote, particularly among those who hadn't finished high school and were making $14 an hour, selling Bibles at the airport."