A Civics Lesson on Polling in Bad Times: Primitives

I wrote about polls for many years as a reporter and I always wondered why they just didn’t have a couple of “sanity” questions just to help assess how important, or accurate, or predictive, whatever, they were.

One would be whether you would snare rabbits in your back yard for baking for meat. Most people think rabbits are too precious to kill that way. I have known people who raised rabbits, and other than the fact that they mated frequently, there wasn’t much to admire about either group. One guy I knew took me through his rabbit shed one winter’s night while he “harvested” the dead ones from the thousands of stinking bundles of fur on either side of him. He would just snatch them up and toss them over his shoulder. They would be caught by the wolf-like dog that followed his every step and devoured on the spot. I thought that was kind of harsh. The rabbit raiser thought it was efficient. It cleared his pens of potential disease vectors, kept his dog on his toes and created more space for those who survived.

“What’s the point?” he said when I asked him about this. “They were dead.”

So there should be some variant of that question on all polls. Is it okay to eat rabbits that are already dead, or should you have to buy them live and kill them yourself? Then you could stack that answer up against the political question and write things like: “49 percent of the people who would kill their own rabbits for dinner support President Trump.” That would at least give you some sense of who these people are.

“Would you eat road kill?” is another great question. John McPhee wrote a whole book about eating road kill and the attractive woman who would stop for any road meat she could collect, take it home and eat it. Those who answered “yes” could be included in a phrase that said, “75 percent of the people who would stop to pick up the carcass of a deer crushed on the road by a truck say they plan to vote for President Trump’s re-election.” Another reliable indicator of what kind of folks they are. It’s a lot better than just saying, “white power people in rural counties say they would vote for Trump.”

The answers to these kinds of questions could be be used to identify a whole new class of potential voters, the ” Primitives” who don’t fit in any other of handy political class. Imagine writing this kind of election night lead:”Riding on a wave of Primitive votes, President Trump was reelected Tuesday by folks who kill their own bunny dinners and gather road kill crushed by trucks.”

Their answer to the question, “Do you read?” could be, “Why?”

It would make political reporting a lot more fun, I suspect. And political reading, too!

In the interim, bake a rabbit for lunch!