Here’s Johnny—the Campaign Oracle

In mid-September 1980, following the two presidential conventions, Ronald Reagan trailed President Jimmy Carter in national polls, 44% to 40%. At the time, I was head writer for Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.” …

We got NBC’s props department to dust off an old applause meter. … When [Johnny] said, “Now how many will vote for Ronald Reagan?” the needle rocketed to 100% so fast I thought it would go airborne over the fat kid on the roof of the Burbank Bob’s Big Boy. …

We conducted the same exercise twice in the fall of 1984 when Reagan’s challenger was Walter Mondale. Our audience again chose Reagan by a wide margin, even though the polls suggested that the results would be otherwise. [Is this what they call “comedic license”? – Editor] …

Johnny Carson’s experiment bucked the pollsters and picked the winners in three presidential contests. [cont.]

Raymond Siller (Wall Street Journal)