Oh the things you can learn by volunteering at the county fair for hours on end....
The Yolo GOP had quite the eye-catching setup, with the U.S. Capitol building used last year having a new Washington Monument to join it this year. We additionally had an informal straw poll we offered to people as they passed by. "Voters" (some of them were underage, not registered, etc.) would simply put five almonds in a jar for one presidential candidate, or spread them out however they chose. Give or take, we had about 1200 people vote in the poll, and I can proudly note there were plenty of occasions when there was a backlog of folks in and around our booth.
Considering the voter registration numbers of Yolo County, I was overall surprised by how many avowed Republicans came by, but my wife (Executive Vice Chair Allison Olson) pointed out that fairgoers probably tilt conservative -- attracting farmers, demolition derby fans, and lovers of fried food, among others.
Apologies to the smaller man eagerly starting a discussion over immigration and medical marijuana usage. I did my best to focus while being responsible for my two-year-old son as he threw his toys into crowds of people walking by. Had I been able to pay the voter more attention, we might've had a new Republican on our hands.
Donald Trump: People love him or hate him. I can recall not a single conversation -- out of very many -- in which an informed voter expressed no major opinion on him either way. His presence on our political scene is extremely divisive.
With the exception of Californian Carly Fiorina, it was remarkable to me how closely our results posted below tracked with the national polls, without having to spend many thousands of dollars on public opinion experts.
One could generally guess who was going to be interested in voting as they became visible in the distance, producing some reflections on judging books by their covers and what kind of people participate in our national conversation.
Sometimes it would be obvious that a person was randomly picking candidates as they voted, or choosing them for completely illogical reasons, such as that no one else voted for them, or that they had a better picture on the jar. My first thought was that meant this process was less scientific. Then I realized that no doubt in the scientific polls too, people sometimes randomly choose without admitting their ignorance to the pollster. For all the faith I have in my country, it is an unassailable truth that voters don't always make sound choices, in things big or small.
Due to voters muttering to themselves or talking to each other, on occasion I got the feeling that someone would pick Fiorina out of the sea of male faces because he or she a Democrat looking for Hillary Clinton, and a woman's face somehow seemed close enough to their goal. What an interesting general election that would be.
You could also usually guess the staunch Democrats, as they would keep walking with a vaguely dismissive smile and avoid any answer at all to our suggestion that they throw nuts in some jars. A simple "no thanks" is all it takes. To the party's credit, very few were outright hostile, with the only memorable one saying that he would "rather eat a bowl of glass" than to vote in the poll. Finding myself without a bowl of glass handy, I was unable to test the strength of his party loyalty.
Of course, rudeness is bipartisan. I am sure the Democrats across the hall had some identical reactions from likely Republicans.
Perhaps more importantly, since it's concerning real votes rather than fake ones, we registered quite a lot of new voters, many of them Republican, and a handful switching from Democrat to Republican. This last occurrence added to the feeling that the fair was overall very successful this year. I look forward to the next.
R. Olson is the director of communications for the Yolo GOP. His dedication to Rubio, Walker, et al. is insufficient to consume bowls of glass, but to find out what he would do, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. All opinions contained herein are his own and not necessarily those of the Yolo County Republican Party.
Trump -- 28.4%
Fiorina -- 13.5
Carson -- 10.4
Bush -- 8.1
Rubio -- 7.7
Paul -- 6.0
Cruz -- 5.5
Kasich -- 4.0
Walker -- 3.9
Huckabee -- 2.9
Christie -- 2.4
Jindal -- 2.0
Perry -- 1.9
Santorum -- 1.4
Graham -- 0.8
Gilmore -- 0.7
Pataki -- 0.4