Cut and Vote

Teton Barbers’ political polls are pretty good at predicting who will win with Teton County voters. 

By Julie Fustanio Kling

Halfway through a haircut with Mike Randall, Ted Dawson contemplates his unofficial voting decisions at Teton Barbers. 

THE MARGIN OF error in Teton Barbers’ election poll has always been slim. That’s why, starting in the 1970s, the Casper Star Tribune called the unassuming barber shop just off Jackson’s Town Square for its results, says Thomas Howard, the Star Tribune’s former publisher who is now retired, lives in Wilson, and faithfully participates in the annual election poll himself. The Star Tribune wasn’t the only newspaper calling. Teton Barbers co-owner Mike Randall says, “Back when Jackson was a two-newspaper town The News and The Guide would each call for early poll numbers, but we wouldn’t tell.” The Teton Barbers poll has about a 92 percent success rate in predicting the candidates that will win in Teton County.

No one remembers when exactly Reid Sanderson, who bought Teton Barbers from its founder in the 1970s, started the poll. When Randall and Debbie Bancroft bought the barber shop in 1994, the paper poll expanded from calling the presidential race to adding the governor, mayor, town council, and county commissioners races. Randall, a Democrat, says he always hands a ballot to the moms who bring in their kids to even out the odds. He and Bancroft, a registered Republican, cancel out each other’s votes so sometimes they forget to even cast them. While Randall and Bancroft might forget to vote themselves, together they count as many as 1,200 paper ballots a year. By hand. 

ON A CLOUDY day last summer, the mostly gray-haired male clientele was simultaneously sarcastic and sentimental. “I am so worried about the world and youth today,” said Joe Peck, a retired St. John’s Medical Center employee who leans to the left and has been spinning in Randall’s chair for twenty years. 

Randall, who’s not shy with his opinions, coifs both recent gubernatorial candidate Foster Friess and former Vice President Dick Cheney, among other conservatives. But the liberal contingent of razor fades is growing. And this year, Teton Barbers even did a full shave for one of rapper/singer/entrepreneur Kanye West’s producers. 

Randall sees Jackson Hole as an expanding blue spot in a red state while Bancroft sees the valley as more purple. In 2016, the poll, like Teton County, favored Hillary Clinton over President Trump. “I’m pretty amazed and impressed with how closely our poll tracks with Teton County results, Randall says.” But why not? When, as Bancroft points out, “We get our cowboys in here who I would consider red and we get our granola heads who I would consider to be blue.” Randall adds, “I think we touch on all the bases.”

As divided as the country now feels politically, the poll, like Teton Barbers, remains a beloved institution, even when people get in each others’ faces. Recently, after some concern about Democrats coming in and casting ballots without paying for services, the shop added the rule that you have to pay for a haircut ($16) in order to cast a ballot. 

Randall and Bancroft also decided to have more fun by expanding the poll beyond elections and polling people about issues, albeit still with a political leaning. They asked clients if they approved of Jackson Mayor
Pete Muldoon’s decision to take down Trump’s portrait in the town hall and replace it with one of Chief Washakie. (Muldoon’s move made national news.) The nays had it. Not that the Jackson Town Council was influenced by this poll, but they did later vote (3-2) to rehang the Trump portrait.

| Posted in JH Living
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