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Presidential polls come in all shapes and sizes

| Monday, Nov. 1, 2004

Sure CNN, Gallup and USA Today provide systematic pre-election polls, but some people predict presidential winners based on taste buds and golf swings.

Some people have devised alternatives to the old 'call 'em up and ask them who they are likely to vote for in this year's election. Instead, they are using cookies, beer, golf balls and children to predict the outcome of the race between Republican George W. Bush and Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry.

Not to go out on a limb, political experts say goofy polls are simply a fun way to be a part of the pre-election buzz.

"I think this year there are many polls because the election is so close," said Chris Bonneau, a professor of political science at the University of Pittsburgh. "Polls give us an indication on what to look out for on election night."

"The wacky polls are another way to express support because people are going to buy a cookie anyway. "

While many are not taking the unconventional and unscientific polls too seriously, some of the pollsters claim they have been accurately predicting the next prez for years. For example, BuyCostumes.com, a costume seller based in Wisconsin, began tracking presidential candidate mask sales in 2000.

After surveying five mask manufacturers and 12 national stores about their sales history since 1980, they found the winner of the election was the person whose mask outsold their opponent.

Here is a round-up of some of the offbeat polls Trib p.m. found:

  • Jenny Lee Bakery is having a cookie poll at each of its three store locations -- Downtown, McKees Rocks and the Crafton Ingram Shopping Center -- and also through their Web site. In the poll, one cookie sale equals one vote for the candidate whose image is on the sweet treat.

    Jonathan Bernstein, marketing director for Jenny Lee, said this is the fourth presidential cookie poll they have conducted, starting with the Bush-Clinton race in 1992.

    "Of the last three, our cookie poll has been correct in picking the winner," he said. "Initially, we just thought it would be a lot of fun and a way to promote the bakery."

    Poll results: Kerry pulled into the lead this weekend, 969 to 930.

  • Swing2Vote combines golf and the presidential elections. New York-based company, Golf People Inc., offers golf kits that come with a vote box with color images of Bush or Kerry on the golf balls. For those who are undecided, there are instructions on ways to pick the man for the job. One instruction tells users to take a whack at both a Bush ball and a Kerry ball and see which takes the straightest path or changes unpredictably.

    Poll results: At last count, Bush was a hole-in-one

  • Nakama Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar on the South Side polled its diners on whether they favor Heinz or W ketchup. Since Democratic nominee John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, is the Heinz ketchup heiress, the sauce is associated with him. The W ketchup is a novelty condiment made by George Bush supporters. Poll results: Kerry. Pittsburghers love their Heinz ketchup.

  • Flying Saucer, a Texas-based restaurant chain, had a Vote with Beer poll at each of its 10 locations throughout the Lone Star state. Participants voted for their candidate by earning a point for them every time they buy a pint of beer with an image of either Kerry or Bush imprinted on it. Poll results: Bush gets beer cheer.

  • The Washington Redskins have correctly predicted the outcome of the last 17 presidential elections. Since the Redskins became the Redskins in 1933, the result of the team's final home game before the presidential election has correctly predicted the White House winner. If the Redskins win, the incumbent party wins. If they lose, the incumbent party is ousted. Results: History is on Kerry's side - the Green Bay Packers beat the Redskins last night.

  • At 7-Eleven convenience stores around the nation, customers can wear their political colors on their cups with the Presidential Coffee Cup Poll. Poll results: Bush 52 percent, Kerry 49 percent.

  • Even pets can be partisan. VanDogh Creations, a Portland, Ore.-based company, is selling dog biscuits called Bush-Bites and Kerry-Waffles through its Web site and a few dozen stores. Results: Bush 75 percent, Kerry, 25 percent.

  • Fans of Cabbage Patch kids can vote for which doll they think is cuter: Bush or Kerry. Poll results: Bush 63 percent, Kerry 37 percent.

  • The Weekly Reader, a publisher of children's materials, polls schoolchildren before the presidential elections. Since 1956, students have correctly picked the president 11 out of 12 times. Voting was open to youth in first through 12th grades and students could vote in class, via the Internet or by dialing an 800 number. There were 327,707 students in all 50 states who cast ballots.

    Poll results: Dubya in a landslide.

    -- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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