MANY OBSERVERS WERE shocked by the results of the 12 December 1993 elections to the Russian State Duma and by the sudden popularity of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's extreme-nationalist Liberal Democrats. But public-opinion pollsters were the ones who had reason to be thoroughly embarrassed. Not since the American Literary Digest mistakenly predicted Alf Landon's victory over U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt in the 1936 election have polltakers made such an egregious error in forecasting the outcome of a major national vote. Before the 1993 elections, most had said Zhirinovsky was not a serious contender. Given that the polltakers were nowhere close to predicting the approximate outcome even two weeks before the last Duma elections, why should observers put stock in a poll taken nine months before the next elections, scheduled for December? Surely anything can happen between now and then, especially given Russia's volatility. New political parties might be formed and new coalitions struck, media campaigns might influence voter preferences, scandals might erupt. Indeed, the elections might even be postponed.

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