Daily Archives: November 13, 2012
In 1935, George Gallup was head of market research at the advertising firm Young & Rubicam in New York when he opened a small polling shop on his own time. The next year he boldly forecast that Franklin Delano Roosevelt would be reelected. The Literary Digest, which ran the biggest and best-known poll at the time, predicted that Roosevelt’s Republican challenger, Alf Landon, would prevail. Gallup, who published the results of his political surveys in a column in the Washington Post, said the Digest had a skewed sample of right-leaning magazine subscribers, car owners, and phone customers. “His political surveys kept finding that the Literary Digest was wrong,” says Susan Ohmer, a professor of film and television at the University of Notre Dame and author of George Gallup in Hollywood. “And he had the guts to say so publicly. He became famous overnight.” In 1948, Gallup gave up his day job at Rubicam, put his name on his polling business, and made it his life’s work. The company continues its much-watched political tracking almost three decades after his death.
“The Gallup Poll is our legacy gift from Dr. Gallup to the United States’ leaders and the world,” says Chief Executive Officer Jim Clifton. The opinion surveys, he says, cost the company about $10 million a year and bring in scant revenue. That’s not because they can’t find political customers. Clifton says the company receives requests for “hundreds of projects” but turns them all down. “We don’t work for Democrats or Republicans or any special-interest groups,” he says.