Little Bits of History

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 18, 2015
George Gallup

George Gallup

November 18, 1901: George Gallup is born. He was born in Iowa, the son of a dairy farmer. As a teenager, he used money he earned from delivering milk to start a newspaper at his high school where he also played football. He went to the University of Iowa and played football there as well. He also became an editor of The Daily Iowan, an independent newspaper which served the college community but wasn’t part of the University itself. He got his BA, then MA, and finally PhD all from the same university. He moved from there to Des Moines, Iowa and became head of the Department of Journalism at Drake University. He stayed there until 1931 before moving to Evanston, Illinois to teach journalism at Northwestern University. He then moved on to New York City and joined an advertising agency.

At Young and Rubicam, he was the director of research and then served as vice president from 1937 to 1947. He also taught journalism at Columbia University but had to give up that position in order to start his own business. He formed the American Institute of Public Opinion in 1935. Gallup is credited with developing the idea of public opinion polls. His own mother-in-law ran for Iowa’s Secretary of State in 1932 and Gallup first used an opinion poll for her campaign. It was assumed the other candidate would win, but she got the vote and increased Gallup’s interesting not only in polling, but in politics. The Gallup Poll became a useful tool for politicians.

In 1936, by polling only 50,000 people, Gallup was able to predict that Franklin Roosevelt would defeat Alf Landon for US President. Literary Digest, a widely respected magazine, had opined Landon was win after over 2 million people returned questionnaires indicating the results. Gallup got it right as well as understood the reason for the difference in the polls’ results. His sample of fewer respondents was completely random. Gallup’s biggest defeat came with another presidential election when he predicted Thomas Dewey would win. Newspapers also got that one wrong at the time. This did not stop his organization from growing. In 1947, Gallup went international. The next year he began an advertising research company. In 1958, all his polling endeavors were grouped together under The Gallup Organization.

The Gallup Organization remains active as a global performance-management consulting company. They provide research and strategic consulting for many large corporations around the globe. They base advice on analytics to help both commercial and political entities solve some of their most pressing problems. Today, the company has Jim Clifton as Chairman and CEO. The international headquarters is in Washington, D.C. and operational headquarters are in Omaha, Nebraska. They conduct 1,000 interviews per day, 350 days a year as a method for keeping up with the current issues. Half of these are conducted over landlines and the other half over cell phones. Half of each is used for one of two topical questionnaires. The results are available in the form of data-driven news.

I could prove God statistically. – George Gallup

Polling is merely an instrument for gauging public opinion. When a president or any other leader pays attention to poll results, he is, in effect, paying attention to the views of the people. Any other interpretation is nonsense. – George Gallup

I ignore polling as a method of government. I think that shows a certain weakness of mind – an inability to chart a course whichever way the wind blows, whichever way the media encourages the people to go, you follow. If you can’t force or are unwilling to force your people to follow you, with or without threats, you are not a leader. – Lee Kuan Yew

Definition of Statistics: The science of producing unreliable facts from reliable figures. – Evan Esar

Also on this day: Jonestown – In 1978, a mass suicide takes place in Jonestown, when 913 of Jim Jones’s followers kill themselves.
Great Shot – In 1307, William Tell shot an apple from his son’s head, according to legend.
Steamboat Willie – In 1928, the cartoon featuring Mickey Mouse was released.
Antipope – In 1105, Antipope Sylvester IV claimed the papacy.
New Zealand’s Worst – In 1947, the worst fire in the country broke out.

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One Response

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  1. dmaloney3401 said, on November 20, 2015 at 11:59 am

    George Gallup revolutionized public opinion polling. Most of today’s politicians could not survive without consulting public opinion surveys


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