As Crook County High School goes, so goes the nation? If so, Reagan wins big

It was a landslide victory for Ronald Reagan in the polling at Crook County High School in Oregon this week. And boasting of their county's bellwether status - the propensity to vote ''right'' for president - locals say other American voters will follow the pattern these 590 Oregonian adolescents did.

Crook County voters have carried the winning presidential candidate for a hundred years, and the high school poll has accurately anticipated the election outcome for nearly as long, says high school Principal Dave Doty.

The children of cowboys, farmers, and unemployed loggers, Crook County high schoolers voted 78 percent in favor of Ronald Reagan and 22 percent for Walter Mondale.

''I feel this is very accurate,'' Mr. Doty says. ''The margin may not be as great as our kids indicate, but people here are accepting that Ronald Reagan is going to be the next president.''

This year, Doty says he had to move the schoolwide poll to an earlier date to accommodate network television and national papers eager for the ''official'' verdict from this empty expanse of lava and sage country in eastern Oregon.

Although this year's high school poll was expanded to include statewide races and ballot issues, Doty says ''(the national press) makes more out of this than Oregonians do. They don't care what's going on on the backroads.''

Crook County and Palo Alto County in Iowa are the nation's two remaining bellwether counties - both have voted accurately for president since the 1800s. Unofficial reports show a leaning toward Mondale in Palo Alto County, which means that there could be one less bellwether county in November.

Many statistical authorities consider the ''bellwether'' status for these counties to be unscientific, and attribute it to mere coincidence.

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