Returns from prohibition polls continue to roll in. About 20 college and university dailies have conducted these surveys, and most of the results coincide with those of the national poll being conducted by the Literary Digest; the nation, these straws seem to show, is not satisfied with alcohol legislation as it now exists.
From the University of Michigan comes the voice of a reader protesting against these results, not on the grounds of the right of a student paper to conduct such investigations, but on the basis of the validity of the method. And the Daily Iowan, publication of the University of Iowa student body, frankly confesses disbelief.
We are inclined to agree. To our mind, the only possible useful function of such a questionnaire is to determine the present extent of law-breaking. The fact that about one-third of the students favor enforcement, one-third repeal, and one-third modification is of little importance. Students in this matter are not in a position to pass critical judgment upon the present legislation. They strike out wildly, vote for repeal when they have no conception of the effects of repeal, vote for modification without any picture of the legislation to be substituted, vote for enforcement without consideration of the paradox of the present conditions.
We do not feel, however, that a poll could produce dependable statistics upon the extent of drinking, and we do not propose to conduct one at Wisconsin. We believe that the duty of the congressional committee, if it is to call itself an intelligent and impartial and truly idealistic body, is first to determine the present extent of drinking by some absolute and uncontrovertible scale, as the consumption of grain, or juniper extract, or grapes; second, to investigate statistics of crime, poverty, accidents and the like, but refusing to accept the statistics offered either by anti-saloon leagues or by anti-prohibition committees; third, to study all other present plans for legally enforced temperance, and to investigate realistically the conditions which would contribute to making systems in use elsewhere effective or non-effective here; and finally to correlate all their results, determining if change is needed, and what substitution is to be made if present plans are not feasible.
Student prohibition polls give the lie to the college presidents who say that drinking is not an important question. But most of them, because they ask for critical opinion where none is possible, are of small value in a pragmatic investigation of conditions. We favor discussion, if it is informed and intelligent, and reform if it is non-political, non-fanatic, and completely impartial. Daily Cardinal, Wisconsin U