If you're already tired of all the campaign hoopla and don't want to stay up late on Nov. 8, here are poll results you can put some faith in.
Get used to the ring of "President Bush," Prineville, Ore., residents advise.Savvy voters in this central Oregon town, county seat of Crook County, have a pretty good record for this kind of thing. Since the county was incorporated in 1882, voters have shown perfect pitch when it comes to picking presidents.
In fact, Crook County High School Principal David Doty jokes that the nation should just suspend the rest of the election, put George Bush in the White House based on Prineville poll results, then send the remaining money in campaign war chests to the high schools.
"Bush is it," said Doty, who oversees the 780-member student body of the school on Knowledge Street.
When Palo Alto County, Iowa, mistakenly chose Walter Mondale over Ronald Reagan in 1984, Crook County earned singular status as the nation's only bellwether county.
In a late October vote, Crook County High School students favored Vice President Bush with more than 70 percent of the vote over Massachusetts' Gov. Michael Dukakis. Doty said he won't stand by the margin, but he holds the opinion that the student poll is a good reckoning of the outcome.
In a dramatic kind of civics lesson, students have been polled since the 1940s, and the majority has always voted the way of the county, Doty said.
And this in the county that is always right.
Prineville Mayor Wally Boe likes that distinction. "We're the leader," he said. "It's kind of fun to think that here you are way off in Prineville, and people all around the world know about you."
Boe was previously mayor of this same town - population 5,400 - in the 1960s, when its bellwether status earned it the distinction of a few polls. But that was nothing at all like the national and international media focus Prineville has garnered this political season.
Boe, a physical therapist and father of seven, admits to being a little tired of all the interviews. "This is small-town America, as far as I'm concerned. It's basically a blue-collar town."
The mayor, a Republican holding the non-partisan office, speculates that voters in the county famed for its prime outdoor recreation opportunities are probably leaning to Bush. That's because the Republican candidate is perceived as more sympathetic to gun owners.
"I think . . . right now, you kind of associate the Democrats with card-carrying members of the American Civil Liberties Union. In Prineville, there are more card-carrying members of the National Rifle Association than the ACLU," Boe said.
This town with the wide streets is a honk-and-wave kind of place, termed the "crystal ball of presidential politics," in Time magazine's July 4 issue. When the issue came out, some people in town were kind of impressed at making Time. But Boe believes the article has to be considered with a grain of salt. "After all, Jake the barber got a bigger quote than I did," the mayor said.
While Prineville is awash in lawn signs for state political races, it is curiously devoid of advertising for either Bush or Dukakis.
The student poll, which Doty said reflects talk around the town's dinner tables, was confirmed by a random poll published in Prineville's biweekly newspaper, The Central Oregonian. The newspaper's poll showed Bush winning the support of 58 percent of those questioned, with 37 percent favoring Dukakis.
The big news reported by the newspaper, however, was the number of residents who have already been questioned.
"A big question we did not ask, and we are kicking ourselves for not asking, was how many had been polled during this presidential election season," writes News Editor Tony Ahern. "By the many who offered that information, it would have probably been close to 80 percent." Ahern's story was headlined: "Please be kind to pollsters as polling is not an easy task."
However, BeBe Schindler, county Chamber of Commerce manager, isn't ready to call the election yet. "I'm a Dukakis fan. I have to tell you that right off. There is a majority of Democrats here, but the Republicans are the most outspoken."
The baffling question is why this rural Oregon county, separated geographically by the Cascade Mountains from state government in Salem and an entire continent away from federal government headquarters, has always voted the way of the nation.
"If we could figure it out, I think we would patent it," said Crook County Clerk Della M. Harrison. "The judge (elected county head Judge Richard Hoppes) thinks it's our juniper berries. Some people say it's the water."
City Manager Henry Hartley, however, believes the record can be credited to nothing more than simple happenstance.
"The spooky part is, at some point in time, Prineville is going to vote wrong," Hartley said. "I think when that happens, it will be because voters tried to guess how the election was going to go. Sometimes I wonder if the publicity will affect how we vote."