BY THIS STAGE in the political season, millions of Americans are hooked on opinion polls, and the gurus who recite the latest numbers on security moms in the Florida panhandle are the toast of TV shows. But the truth is that this presidential election, more than most elections, defies prediction: It is too close, the turnout is too uncertain and large numbers of young adults have put themselves beyond the reach of pollsters by dispensing with land lines and using only cell phones. Therefore, for all you readers who can't wait to know Tuesday's outcome, we offer some options to complement and reinforce the polls.
First, watch the Redskins today. Ever since 1936, the year before the team moved to Washington, the last home game before the election has predicted the winner. If the Redskins win, so does the incumbent party in the White House; if not, not. This rule has held good for 17 straight elections. If you needed an extra reason to watch the team take on the Green Bay Packers this afternoon, you now have one.
Since 1956 the Weekly Reader has polled its student subscribers, and the result has anticipated the election's outcome 11 out of 12 times. This year over 60 percent picked President Bush, and although a rival student poll by Nickelodeon produced the opposite result, the margin was smaller. Commenting on this troubling discrepancy in the data, Goldman Sachs advised its clients, "We tend to favor Weekly Reader given its longer track record and the fact that its participants tend to be younger and more reflective of their parents who will actually be making the decision."
Finally, there is the Halloween factor. Since Ronald Reagan's election in 1980, the candidate whose mask sold the most has won. According to the Goldman Sachs team, Bush was winning as of one month ago. But neither candidate can match the hapless Richard Nixon. His mask outsells them both.