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President Lincoln Wasn’t Tied to ‘Opinion Polls’

Wall Street Journal writer Joseph Epstein notes that the opinion poll has been around for more than a century. They gained authority in the 1940s with the polling methods of George Gallup. Now we put way too much stock in opinion polls. Epstein writes, “So endemic is polling that it feels as if what a politician does is less important than whether the public approves or disapproves.”

President Abraham Lincoln is an example of how to seek wise counsel and input from others without letting it run your life. Epstein writes:

Early in his presidency he set aside morning office hours to receive visitors, many seeking favors or attempting to exert influence, or merely wishing to shake the hand of the nation’s leader. … These visits … offered the president the opportunity, in these days before scientific public opinion polling, to get some idea of how ordinary people felt about him and his administration. Yet Lincoln, aware as he was of public sentiment, never allowed it ultimately to alter his policies or principles, which is one of the reasons he was a great man.

For instance, some critics blasted his 272-word Gettysburg Address for being too short. But Lincoln stood by the speech, and as we all know now, it became one of the greatest political speeches of all time.

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