Filling the polling void

The story of the Federal Way kid who returned $10,000 he found in a bathroom makes its way into the national mania for polls. Are you ethical? (Yes or no.)
The story of the Federal Way kid who returned $10,000 he found in a bathroom makes its way into the national mania for polls. Are you ethical? (Yes or no.)

Polling was the nation'ꀙs one growth industry this year. It'ꀙs little wonder, then, that the absence of hourly updates about races long-since settled have left many yearning for numbers to crunch just months before the run-up to 2012 and the prospect of Sarah Palin 24/7.

Aware of the polling void, CNN online continues to feature a daily ersatz sampling called a 'ꀜQuick Vote,'ꀝ with the caveat that a reader-selected response 'ꀜis not a scientific survey.'ꀝ Never mind that Quick Vote may actually have greater validity than certain so-called scientific results, such as John Zogby showing Kerry over Bush by 84 electoral votes two hours before the polls closed Nov. 2, 2004. Zogby only missed it by 115.

Quick Vote isn'ꀙt restricted to politics. A recent CNN poll offered the following question, which may seem familiar to anybody exposed to a Northwest news source the past week, to wit: 'ꀜIf you found $10,000 in a store bathroom, would you turn it in?'ꀝ The early results were yes, 58 percent (61,702 responses); no, 42 percent (45,049). This made me wonder: Are there really 106,751 of us with nothing better to do than respond to idle speculation based on the idea that a 17-year-old grocery worker in Federal Way, Washington, exemplified the 'ꀜyes'ꀝ response?

The story up for a vote was about young Moisei Baraniuc, who loads grocery bags at a Top Food & Drug store, and who found a sack already packed for him when he visited a restroom stall at Top early last month. The container had a wad of cash left by a Vancouver, Washington, resident, evidently was the person's life savings. That alone ought to be enough to prompt at least one companion CNN Quick Vote asking whether a guy who would stash all his cash in a paper sack then leave the container in a public latrine even deserves to have it returned. One speculation is that the Vancouver man made haste because he observed foot-tapping in an adjacent stall, but we checked and Larry Craig wasn'ꀙt anywhere near Federal Way that day.

And note that 42 percent would keep the loot. What are we poll-addicts to make of that? Maybe CNN should have posed a follow-up hypothetical: 'ꀜWhat if you knew that, at your $8.07-per-hour wage, it would require working 31 40-hour weeks (at 100 bag-fillings per shift that'ꀙs about 20,000 grocery sacks) to make 10 grand and by then you'ꀙd probably be paying higher taxes to help narrow Washington state'ꀙs $6 billion budget shortfall?'ꀝ

To his credit, the Top Kid rejected all such temptations and may never know what might have been his breaking point. For the record, this voter agreed with him, though I wasn't tested by the truly bedeviling followup: 'ꀜWould you have given it back even if you knew for certain that the money would go to the clothing fund of the 2012 Palin campaign?'ꀝ


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