"The Digest" Poll at the Half-Million Mark
IT SHOULD BE POSSIBLE to form an accurate estimate of public opinion," predicted the New York Tribune, commenting on the tabulation of the first 200,000 votes in THE DIGEST'S national referendum on Prohibition, "when the third or fourth hundred thousand- are tabulated." With this issue a tabulation of some 480,000 votes is presented, and numerous publicists are ready with' estimates of the state of public opinion which the ballots show. One out-standing fact about the poll continues to be the steadiness with which the earlier distribution of the vote between "wets," "moists" and "drys" has been maintained: The present tabulation, which may be said to show a fair number of returns from most sections of the country, reveals much the same state of public opinion as shown in the first, second and third tabulations. This showing, of course, is interpreted in different ways by different commentators.
The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin finds, for instance, that the greatest significance of the balloting is:
"The indication that the various States are standing pat on their previous position as to Prohibition, confirming the belief that Prohibition is properly an issue within the police powers of the several States, to be determined according to the habit and desire of the people within these jurisdictions."
The unpopularity of the saloon, as revealed by the voting as well as by many letters accompanying the ballots, appeals to a great many commentators. Even so confirmed a "wet" advocate as the New York Morning Telegraph draws this conclusion, and cheer-fully suspects that the day of the saloon has passed forever. "From the votes already counted," asserts the Pittsburgh Sun, `.`it is difficult to see how the extreme ‘wets' can find any ground-for .encouragement." The editor of this paper, with an eye to certain humorous aspects of the situation, comments further:
"It has been amusing, when not distressing, to read the wild statements of the `wets' and the more rabid `dries.' Each camp has assured the patient public a thousand times that it holds 90 per cent. of all American citizens. Of course, the 90 per cent. can not be in both camps at the same time, tho a considerable proportion of us may carry water on one shoulder and something else on another. It will be as refreshing as the outlawed mint julep is said to have been to have adequate and accurate information as to just what we do think, these hot summer months . . . ..Whatever the outcome of the vote, it is likely to put an end to the foolish claims of the extremists on both sides by affording authentic information upon which to base discussion. And that is what we, the people, chiefly need-authentic information."
The Baptist (Chicago), official organ of the Baptist denomination of America, basing its belief on THE DIGEST's first tabulation of 95,000 ballots, which showed a slightly larger percentage of dampness than does the tabulation given herewith, observes that "There is no comfort coming in this poll for the `wets' nor for the `moists.' America is `dry' and will stay `dry." The Baptist calls attention to these facts:
" 1. Not a single State gives a majority for repeal—not even New Jersey nor New York.
"2. Cutting out the Southern and Western States, predominantly `dry' (many of them by State enactment before the Amendment was adopted), the fourteen Northeastern States (nearly all `wet' before the Amendment) taken as a whole voted against repeal, 3 to 1. New Jersey and Pennsylvania voted 2% to 1 against repeal; New York, Illinois and Massachusetts, 3 to 1; Connecticut, 33,6 to 1;
Ohio, 6 to 1; Wisconsin, nearly 7 to 1. California, with its notoriously `wet' proclivities, voted 4 to 1 against repeal."
A new factor, a real unknown quantity, will be introduced into the poll by the returns from a special poll of 2,000,000 ballots which THE DIGEST has just mailed to women voters. It has been argued that women are predominantly "dry," and, with equal fervor, that they are not so. The votes from this number of women, selected at random from the voters' lists of cities, towns and country districts throughout the nation, should give a fair indication of the attitude of the women. Its introduction into the poll will help, also, to balance the general voting list so far used in mailing THE DIGEST ballots, in which men have been in the majority. A careful figuring of percentages indicates that returns on a poll of 2,000,000 women will fairly balance, as between men and women voters, the complete referendum of 10,000,000 voters which is being taken.
Granting, however, there is an opportunity for a display of "dry" strength in this feminine vote, the factory polls which THE DIGEST is taking continue to be extremely "damp." A careful poll of the establishment of Parke, Davis & Company, manufacturing chemists, of Detroit, shows the following results:
For enforcement 218
For modification 1,081
For repeal 211
This vote, with its ratio of 6 to 1 against the present laws, is not quite as "damp" as was the poll of the Edison works, summarized in these columns last week, with a ratio of approximately 20 to 1 against "bone dryness." .Combining these two polls, the attitude of the workers in two representative factories may be summarized as follows:
For enforcement 311
For modification 2,059
For repeal 1,177
The Detroit factory, it may be noticed, was overwhelmingly in favor of modification, while the New Jersey institution was almost as strong for complete repeal as for modification of the present law. Especially interesting in this connection is a telegraphed statement by Samuel Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor, who was among the national authorities asked for an opinion on the poll. He replies:
"In addition to the vile and poisonous substitutes for whisky so largely consumed, and in addition to the increased drug habit since Prohibition, Prohibition has made a nation of grouches. It has taken the joy out of the American people, as can be at-tested by almost every social gathering. The whole scheme is unwarrantable interference with the personal freedom of the people, and increases discontent and resentment in the knowledge that those who have, have it. I firmly believe that a modification of the Volstead Act so that beer and light wines may be manufactured and sold under proper regulations would solve the whole question rationally and helpfully."
While the present tabulation of the poll shows 62 per cent. in favor of a change in the laws, with 38 per cent. favoring continuance and enforcement, several commentators believe that it is the attitude of the separate States which chiefly matters, since any alteration of the Eighteenth Amendment could only be effected by a two-thirds majority of the States. The Amendment, enforced, in the opinion of the extreme "drys," is sufficient to insure an absolutely "dry" nation. It is interesting to note, therefore, that in the present tabulation, leaving out of consideration States in which the vote is thus far less than 100, only two States, Kansas and Arkansas, show a total vote in favor of the continuance of the present Amendment and Volstead Act. The 35 other States show a majority in favor of a change. The majorities are in no case for repeal of the Amendment, but invariably they express, in the phrase of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, "a decidedly positive note of dissatisfaction with 100 per cent. aridity."