BOB GARFIELD: Soon, election polling will come to an end, and the public will once again be freed to keep its opinions -- smart or idiotic -- to itself. Pollsters will likely use the quiet to recalibrate their polling methodology in preparation for the next poll that matters. But The Partnership for a Poll-Free America has watched this cycle before and isn't convinced that progress lies in creating a better poll. They want to get rid of polls all together. The group was founded by comic Harry Shearer and syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington. She joins me now. Arianna, welcome to the show.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Thank you, Bob.
BOB GARFIELD: Allow me to be devil's advocate here, because I myself am like a lunatic zealot on this subject, but gee, Arianna, what's so bad about polling?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Well, Bob, we are treating these polling results with the kind of reverence that ancient Romans gave to chicken entrails, and yet they are the product of polling about 30 to 35 percent of those actually called. They are the only ones who agree to be polled. And I have a feeling that there may be a small, unrepresentative minority of bored and lonely Americans who have nothing better to do than talk to strangers for no money.
BOB GARFIELD: And who's giving the way to opinions? Are, are politicians paying more attention to these, what you say are skewed results than politicians should be?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: It's actually both politicians and the media. I mean look, Bob -- it's unbelievable how every cable show is leading, these days, with the latest polling results, even though they are all over the map, and it's not like this doesn't have any impact. It has a huge impact on fundraising; it has a huge impact on morale; it has a huge impact on volunteers putting those extra hours helping their candidates.
BOB GARFIELD: You're suggesting that polls are probably inaccurate, that they're polling the, the wrong people and excluding some of the right people, and that too much weight is put on them, and your solution is -- what?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Well, my solution is born of reality. We are not going to end the addiction of politicians and the media to polls. The only thing we, the people, have control over is offering our opinion to the pollsters. That's why we started this campaign, and any of your listeners can join by going to AriannaOnLine.com and taking the pledge that they will not talk to pollsters. [LAUGHTER] They can talk to them, socially, but they should hang up on them if they call them at home, interrupting their dinner and asking them questions about this or any other election. If we can bring the response rate down to single digits, then even pollsters will have to admit that their results are pretty meaningless.
BOB GARFIELD: In 2003, you ran for governor of California in the recall election, and you said that, quote, "What we need are political leaders with the wisdom to see what does not show up in the polling data, and the passion to work to create the consensus for it. I, I think you hit on a paradox in our democracy. People demand leadership, and yet they are offended when their leaders stray somehow from the consensus. Polls, of course, are all about consensus. What's the solution?
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Well, the solution is bold leaders who are willing to appeal to what is best in us and create a new concept, and it has happened. Going back to the Emancipation Proclamation, which Abraham Lincoln signed, even though it was a deeply unpopular document, right through to Bobby Kennedy's run for president. He appealed to people in what we now call red states and blue states by creating a new consensus around the moral imperative of fighting poverty and getting out of Vietnam. So it has happened before. It can happen again. Just hang up on pollsters.
BOB GARFIELD: All right. Well, my chicken entrails within a margin [LAUGHTER] of error of 3 percent tell me that-- it's never going to happen.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Thank you, Bob.
BOB GARFIELD: All right, Arianna, thank you very much.
ARIANNA HUFFINGTON: Bye bye.
BOB GARFIELD: Arianna Huffington is a nationally syndicated columnist. In 2003, she ran for governor of California as an independent. The polls predicted she would lose, and they were right. [MUSIC]