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Goofy polls for picking the prez
Odd indicators consider cheese, golf balls, even beer sales to predicting election outcome.
September 23, 2004: 2:15 PM EDT
By Parija Bhatnagar, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Some people think it's too much work to simply ask people which candidate they're likely to vote for this year.

Instead, they've devised their own in-house "off-beat" presidential election polls, tracking everything from sales of golf balls, beer and even Halloween masks to predict who wins the ballot in November.


Earlier this week, CNN/Money reported about a quirky Halloween masks predictor that claims to have accurately picked the winner of every presidential election since 1980. The oracle: Which candidate's spoofy masks sold the most in a given election year.

According to the latest tally by costume seller, Bush masks have been outselling those of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin so far this year. So, advantage Bush?

Maybe. But political analysts in the academic world suggest people not take these unscientific polls too seriously.

"These are random and odds ways to gauge what the public thinks," said Bob Burns, professor of political science at South Dakota State University.

"I suppose one can try to search for logic and a rational behind why people choose to buy certain products over others," said Burns. "If people are buying more products that support Bush, it may either suggest more confidence in the incumbent over Kerry. On the other hand, if products supporting the opponent are selling better, it could be a sign of waning confidence in the incumbent."

Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia, sees one redeeming factor about these polls that could make up for their goofiness.

"Anything that gets people interested in politics is a good thing," he said.

Here are a few other examples.

Swinging to a decision

Bush leads Kerry again in this golf ball predictor from New York-based Golf People, Inc.

This presidential  
This presidential "decision-making" tool contains two sets of custom golf balls featuring George W. Bush and John Kerry ($14.99)

In an email, CEO Gary Salman said his company had been selling significantly more boxes of its "Swing2Vote box" containing two golf balls bearing color photographs of Bush compared to a similar box for Kerry.

Obviously, the vote box is intended to let users take a swing at the incumbent or his opponent. But if you're still having problems deciding on whom to vote for, the package suggests other fun ways to help you make up your mind.

Take both balls and inspect the candidates' faces. Make a decision on their appearance. If you remain undecided, the box instructs users to hold a primary vote. Then drop both balls and "see which ball shows the largest post-primary bounce."

Vote here with beer

Two weeks ago, Texas-based restaurant chain Flying Saucer started a "Vote with Beer" poll at each of its 10 locations throughout the state. Participants vote for their candidate of choice by earning a point for them every time they buy a 16-ounce pint glass of beer with an image of either Kerry or Bush imprinted on it.

Flying Saucer's  
Flying Saucer's "Vote with Beer" poll shows Bush leading Kerry with more beverage points.

"I am a devout Democrat but everybody else in my office is a devout Republican," said Shannon Wynne, the chain's owner. "So it's a very politically charged environment where I work."

Who's winning? So far, it's Bush, with 1,756 beer votes versus 1,245 for Kerry.

But the results might not withstand a recount, at least under traditional election rules: "Some people have been buying two to three glasses of beer to get the points up for their candidate," Wynne noted.

Wynne said the "informal" poll will run six-weeks right up to election day.

Food for thought?

Finally, all those "undecided" voters still searching for insight into the presidential candidates can consider a new study from Sargento Foods.

The Wisconsin-based maker of dairy products has produced personality profiles for Bush and Kerry with "cheese" overtones. The "tongue-in-cheek" report says there is a connection between personality and cheese shape preference.

The study found that Bush is a "shreds" man, meaning those who prefer shreds are decisive, extroverted and like to take on new challenges. Kerry has a "slices" personality. In other words, fans of sliced cheese are driven, results-oriented and natural leaders.

This last theory just might be a little too cheesy to swallow.  Top of page

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