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Pollster Lawrence "Rip" Smith, a former basketball star and ex-serviceman, is obsessed with finding the "mathematical miracle" that will enable him to conduct accurate but economical surveys. Rip's company is bankrupt, however, as he is unable to compete with his more conventional rival, George Stringer. When Rip realizes that an informal survey conducted in the small town of Grandview by his former army mate, Hoopendecker, exactly matches one of Stringer's national surveys, he concludes that Grandview's demographics are identical to the country as a whole. Having found his "miracle," Rip convinces one of his clients that he can deliver a survey on progressive education by the same date as Stringer, whose company has been working on the project for some time. Rip, right-hand man Ike Sloan and statistician Mr. Twiddle then descend on Grandview, posing as life insurance salesmen. While waiting to speak to the mayor of Grandview, Rip overhears Mary Peterman proposing an ambitious building plan to the city council. Concerned by Mary's cry for change, Rip interrupts her presentation and gives a stirring speech proclaiming Grandview as the perfect American town. The conservative council members use Rip's speech as an excuse to table Mary's proposal, which leads Mary, whose family has run the local newspaper for years, to write a scathing editorial against Rip. Despite Rip's attempts to charm her into issuing a retraction, Mary maintains her stance, but is nonetheless attracted to Rip. Rip, too, feels a growing attraction for Mary and, while continuing his covert poll-taking, spends more and more time with her. Although Ike warns Rip that he is becoming too involved in the town, Rip, who has been coaching the school basketball team, insists that the job comes first with him. On the night before his survey is due, however, Rip attends a school dance and is thanked publicly by Mary's mother. Chagrined by her praise, Rip slips away from the dance and returns to his office to call his client. When a concerned Mary follows him there, she discovers the truth behind his visit and, after condemning him, reports her findings in the next day's paper. To her surprise, her story is picked up by the national press, and a week later, the town is besieged by reporters, who declare Grandview the "public opinion capital of the U.S." Grandview soon becomes a cocky boom town, where its citizens sell their opinions on street corners and the city council announces plans to build a lavish civic center. Ashamed by the changes their actions have wrought, Rip and Mary begin avoiding each other, and Rip eventually leaves Grandview. When a Grandview poll erroneously indicates that seventy percent of Americans would favor a woman President, however, the press makes the town a national laughing stock, and the boom turns to doom. Unable to work, Rip returns to Grandview and confesses his love to Mary. Although Mary also admits to being in love, she tells Rip that they have "murdered" Grandview and are forever tainted by their crime. Rip refuses to accept this verdict and turns to U.S. Senator Wilton, a native of Grandview, for aid. Leading council member Richard Nickleby refuses to consider the senator's plan to raise money for the town, however, and Rip accuses him of "walking out on the team." When Nickleby's son Hank, a member of Rip's basketball team, tells Rip that his father has already sold the civic center land to a speculator, Rip gets the idea to print excerpts from a ground-breaking speech delivered weeks earlier in which the mayor declared that the center would be constructed even if it required building it with "their own hands." The council is outraged by the article, but when the basketball team demands that the center be built as a way of saving Grandview's reputation, other citizens begin to question the legality of Nickleby's sale. Because the council never put the sale to a public vote, the transaction is declared illegal, and the rallying townspeople volunteer their goods and services to construct the center. Having saved their magic town, Rip and Mary happily reunite.