Cross-Currents in "The Digest's" Prohibition Poll
THE VOLSTEAD ACT AND THE "WETNESS" of factory workers seem to form the chief present centers of turbulence in the flood of comment which THE DIGEST'S poll of 10,000,000 voters of the nation is calling forth. With this issue, the votes received and tabulated total well over 600,000. As the total grows, perhaps the most outstanding fact is the evenness with which the "moist" sentiment, generally interpreted as opposition to the Volstead Law, has maintained its lead over both "wet wets" and "dry drys." The special poll of 2,000,000 women, returns on which are just beginning to come in, may, of course, effect a considerable "drying up" of the situation. On the other hand, THE DIGEST'S factory polls continue to be very "wet." The totals from both of these subsidiary polls will be added to the main poll in the final tabulation, showing the complete vote.
The latest factory poll, taken in the establishment of the Campbell's Soup Company in New Jersey, shows the following returns:
For enforcement 162
For modification 720
Special interest attaches to this vote because approximately 30 per cent. of the workers polled were women. In spite of this fact, the vote is against the present laws by a proportion of 9 to 1, as compared with a ratio of 6 to 1 against it shown by the poll of Parke Davis &-Co. of Detroit. On the other hand, a ratio of 20 to 1 against "bone dryness" was shown by the poll of the Edison Works in New Jersey. Combining these three polls, the attitude of the workers in three representative factories may be summarized as follows:
For enforcement . . . 473
For modification .. 2,779
For repeal 1,927
Sentiment in favor of a tempering of the present anti-liquor laws is thus revealed at the ratio of approximately 10 to 1. In all cases the workers have been assured of an absolutely secret ballot, and careful precautions have been taken to insure against any possibility of plural voting. The following copy of a notice, bulletined among its employees by one of the firms polled, shows the general attitude taken by the employers who Nave agreed to co-operate in getting at the real sentiment of the workers:
THE LITERARY DIGEST, one of the leading weekly magazines, published in New York, is attempting to take a secret ballot or vote of ten million people in the United States on Prohibition and the Soldiers' Bonus.
On Tuesday, July 25th, you will be given a card by your fore-man. If you wish to vote on either of these important questions, simply mark a cross in the place provided on the card, according to the way you desire to vote, and drop the card in the sealed box provided for that purpose at the entrance to the plant.
Understand this is a secret ballot. No person need know how you vote unless you. tell them or show them the card. No obligations are attached to it in any manner. Understand further that the corporation has no interest in this poll, except, if completed, it will be the largest poll ever taken in this country, and we wish our employees to have an opportunity of voting.
While such representative papers as the Now York Tribune, the New Haven Journal-Courier, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Chicago Journal accept this workers' vote as showing, in the words of the Journal, why "bone-dry champions object to anything in the nature of a referendum," Thomas A. Edison, commenting on the poll in his own factory, is credited, by the New York Sun, with the remark that "Evidently the large foreign group among the workers who voted are not well informed as to their best interests." The New York Christian Advocate,"
one of the most influential church weeklies in the United States, beginning with the cheerful observation that "Everybody is talking about the results of the mail vote on Prohibition with which THE LITERARY DIGEST is ruffling the calmness of the `strike summer' of 1922," presents another phase of the matter to this effect:
"The New York newspapers of July 31 have screaming head-lines over the vote in the Edison works. It was for wine and beer by a large majority. Special care was taken to protect the fairness and secrecy of the poll. But it would be quite as interesting to know how the wives of the men would vote. It is remembered that when working-men were wearing the 'No Beer, No Work' buttons which the brewers provided they seldom wore them home!"
A fair proportion of the wives of these working-men will, no doubt, vote in THE DIGEST'S poll of 2,000,000 women voters, now under way. The Advocate editor adds that before the complete results can be accepted as reliable, "THE LITERARY DIGEST owes it to the public to tell where and how it obtained its list of names." As has already been explained, practically all the names from which returns have so far been tabulated were taken from the telephone books of the country. Such a list, believes the New York Tribune, "may be said to represent the `dryer' elements of the country." The Advocate editor concludes with an argument which has appeared in many quarters, to the effect that the poll would have shown less "dampness" if the voters were convinced that "to legalize the sale of wine and beer is to bring back the saloon with all its waste and misery." The members of The Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, however, with its slogan of "Wines and Beer Now, but, No Saloon Ever," believe that the saloon is not a necessary accompaniment of wines and beers, as do many newspaper editors. The New York Morning Telegraph remarks of the saloon that—
"It did not respect the law before we had a Prohibition Amendment any more than bootleggers respect it now. Had it been a self-respecting institution, law-abiding and clean, if it had kept out of politics, it might not now be in the scrap-heap. . . The average person does not realize, perhaps, that the Amendment can be repealed with a provision that will prevent a revival of the saloon. But this is quite possible. It is the end toward which the Association Opposed to Prohibition is working."
While "dry" leaders assert that it would be illegal and unconstitutional to alter the Volstead Act, a good many "moist" advocates believe that, in the phrase of the Birmingham Age-Herald, it is "the weak part of the Prohibition armor," and that through repeal or modification of this law, "bone dryness" may be relieved more easily than by any attempt to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment. The New York Times, for some time known as one of the most consistent opponents of "bone dryness," concludes editorially that THE DIGEST'S figures prove, beyond the possibility of doubt, that the Eighteenth Amendment is in the Constitution to stay, and its opinion is quoted as conclusive by "dry" advocates in various parts of the country. At the same time, most of the believers in "wetness," or at least in an increase of legalized moisture, are anything but downhearted. The Association Against the Prohibition Amendment announces that the Volstead Act must be superseded by a law giving a "fairer" definition of "intoxicating liquors." The Baltimore American believes that the poll shows that " there is a real chance for the moderates to make progress, and, eventually, to win their fight if they will accept the chance judiciously," and the Chicago Journal and the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader, both of which conducted local polls which resulted in majorities against the Volstead Act, agree with the New York World that, judging by the statistics gathered by THE DIGEST—
"The Volstead Law has not long to live. It can not maintain itself without the majority consent. That consent has never been given, and evidently it does not exist."