George Gallup

Pollster

Born: 18 November 1901
Died: 26 July 1984 (heart attack)
Birthplace: Jefferson, Iowa
Best known as:

The founder of Gallup public opinion polls

Name at birth: George Horace Gallup, Jr.

 

George Gallup was a New York ad man who's career in market research led him to found the American Institute of Public Opinion in 1935, starting one of the world's best known public opinion polls. Gallup grew up in Iowa and graduated from the University of Iowa, ending up with a Ph.D in journalism in 1928. After teaching journalism and doing market research for newspapers, Gallup moved to New York and went to work for the ad agency Young and Rubicam in 1933. With some experience doing public opinion polls in Iowa politics, Gallup started his own polling company in Princeton, New Jersey and managed to sell his results to newspapers across the United States. In the presidential election of 1936, the experts, including the reliable polls from Literary Digest, predicted Alf Landon would stomp Franklin D. Roosevelt's re-election bid. Before the election, Gallup predicted that Roosevelt would easily win, and he was right (Landon carried only 2 of 48 states). Gallup's success came about through statistical sampling; competitors like the Literary Digest polled people by telephone, at a time when many people did not own telephones. Gallup's pollsters did man-on-the-street interviews and went door-to-door, getting fewer responses from a broader sample. Although public opinion polls made Gallup famous, there money his organization made mostly came from private clients, including movie studios in the 1940s. Although Gallup, like most everyone else, guessed wrong in the 1948 election (Harry Truman beat Thomas Dewey), it didn't stop his business from gaining an international reputation as one of the more accurate gauges of public opinion. He died from a heart attack at his home in Tschingel, Switzerland in 1984.

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