Wednesday, November 14, 2018

HIstory of the Gallup Poll.

Survey, Icon, Survey Icon, QuestionnaireIf you read yesterday's entry, you'll know that for the 1936 election, before the Literary Digest sent out its massive mailing to obtain the data for their prediction, a man popped up out of Princeton New Jersey stating their predictions would be wrong and even provided their prediction!

George Gallup, a man who spent time since he was in college wondering if there was a more efficient way of polling people other than going person to person. 

He began investigating the methods used by agricultural inspectors to test a supply of wheat or water.  In fact, his doctoral thesis 'A New Technique for Objective Methods for Measuring Reader Interest in Newspapers,' became the basis of the Gallup Poll.

As he conducted research on the topic and published the results in journals which lead to his becoming noticed by companies, one of whom, hired him to be their director of research in 1932.  In the same year, his mother-in-law ran in place of her deceased husband as a democrat in the very republican state of New Jersey.  She won despite not having run any sort of campaign but being of the same party as Roosevelt. 

This lead Gallup to wonder if he could use his sampling methods to predict the winner in elections so he ran a test using the 1934 Congressional elections and his results were only a percentage point off.  This lead to a gentleman seeing the earning potential in this type of predictions so he partnered with George Gallup to create the American Institute of Public Opinion.  The idea was that with such a prestigious name, people would be more likely to return results even though the institute only had a few workers who counted votes.

In 1935, George began writing a syndicated column in which he guaranteed he could predict the winner of the next presidential election with more accuracy than the Literary Digest and even offered a money back guarantee.  This allowed his partner to place "America Speaks" in 42 newspapers and set off a major competition between the two.

  The Literary Digest scoffed at Gallup and predicted Landon would win the election with 57 percent of the vote.  They'd predicted the previous winner but with the depression, they didn't have as much money available so they only polled 10 million people who belonged to a higher economic class because they only looked at those who owned automobiles and telephones. 

On the other hand, Gallup predicted Roosevelt would win with 54% of the vote.  He was off by about seven percent when Roosevelt won with 61 percent of the vote but his prediction was correct.  The Literary Digest went out of business within one year and Gallup emerged as the foremost authority on polling of his day.

He founded several other institutes in England and one in the United States to monitor movies.  His company asked question after question that most never thought about such as "Do you believe in God" but for all this data collection, he had trouble with the 1948 Dewey vs Truman election.  Due to the splintered Democratic party, it was believed that Truman had no chance to win so instead of completing the usual surveys, they only looked at the results from the national party attendees and predicted Dewey.  Truman continued campaigning and won leaving egg on the face of pollsters including Gallup.

This caused him to revise his polling methods and hang in there but the field began diminishing until the 1960's but in 1958, he founded the Gallup Organization which was his own polling company run by he and his son.  He moved the focus to marketing research but kept his academic methods.  The company began to grow and develop but not without problems.  In the 1968 election season, it was discovered that pollsters created fraudulent results from Harlem and were alleged to have ties to Nixon.  That aside, the company has continued to grow to become the powerhouse it is today.

The company merged with Select Institute back in 1988 but has retained its name and methods.

Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

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