Public opinion polling began in the 1930s and 1940s with the work of a handful of innovative researchers. Through the years, many people have made enormous contributions to the development and improvement of the methodologies, scope, and standards of the field. Some of the most influential polling pioneers include:

Joe Belden button

Joe Belden

Joe Belden became interested in opinion sampling while working in the late 1930s as a student editor at the Daily Texan, the newspaper of the University of Texas at Austin. In an effort… Read more

Hadley Cantril

Hadley Cantril

In 1939, Hadley Cantril established the Princeton Listening Centre to study Germany Radio Propaganda. During this time he also received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to establish an Office of Public Opinion Research …Read more

Archibald Crossley button

Archibald Crossley

For the 1936 presidential election, Crossley and his associates were hired by Hearst Publications to conduct polls. Crossley, along with contemporary pioneers Elmo Roper and George Gallup, correctly predicted a landslide Roosevelt victory, going against his former employer Literary Digest… Read more

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Helen Crossley

Following her graduation from Radcliffe College, Crossley worked for the Office of War Information and the War Food Administration in Washington during World War II. After the war, she… Read more

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Helen Dinerman

Dinerman was secretary-treasurer of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, one of the first female members of the Market Research Council, and was a member of both the American Sociological Association and the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues… Read more

Harry Field button

Harry Field

In 1941 Harry Field established The National Opinion Research Center (NORC), the first non-profit polling service in the world. NORC quickly rose to prominence and during the Second World War it was called upon by the United States Government to undertake almost 100 studies… Read more

George Gallup button

George Gallup

George Gallup’s breakthrough moment was the 1936 presidential election. By systematically sampling the public to success, Gallup quickly gained credibility, rising to the top of the new field of public opinion… Read more

Eduardo Hamuy button

Eduardo Hamuy

A faculty member in the department of education at the University of Chile and Assistant Director of the design department, Eduardo Hamuy correctly predicted the positions of the three presidential candidates…Read more

Louis Harris, pioneer pollster

Louis Harris

In 1960, Louis Harris was employed by Kennedy’s campaign, becoming the first presidential pollster. Using this success, he went on to work the campaigns of hundreds of political candidates, both Republican and Democrat… Read more

V.O. Key

V.O. Key

V.O. Key was also a successful author, writing many books analyzing the political process and public opinion. Among his important works were Southern Politics in State and Nation (1949), which won the Woodrow Wilson Award of the American Political Science Association… Read more

Andrew Kohut 2014 Mitofsky Award winner

Andrew Kohut

Andrew Kohut was a leading figure in the American polling industry and Founding Director of the Pew Research Center….Read more

Everett C. Ladd, Jr.

Everett Carll Ladd

Under Ladd’s leadership, the Roper Center became the premier archive of polling data in the world, encompassing both national and international surveys….Read more

Paul Lazarsfeld

Paul Lazarsfeld

Paul Lazarsfeld worked with the Rockefeller Foundation to study the influence of the radio on Americans. With Dr. Frank Stanton, future president of CBS, he created the Stanton-Lazarsfeld Box, which analyzed the preferences of radio listeners… Read more

Rensis Likert

Rensis Likert

Under the leadership of Rensis Likert, the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan became the country’s largest university based social science research organization… Read more

Sam Lubell

Sam Lubell

Sam Lubell’s approach to predicting elections involved analyzing a small but important number of precincts in a state to allow him to predict how the entire state would vote, allowing him to correctly predict a landslide victory for Dwight Eisenhower in the 1952 presidential election by looking at the results from three precincts in Richmond, Virginia… Read more

Warren Mitofsky button

Warren J. Mitofsky

In 1967, he joined CBS News, piloting the exit poll in the Kentucky gubernatorial election shortly after. In 1972, Mitofsky led the first nationwide exit poll… Read more

Bud Roper

Bud Roper

When pollsters failed to predict Truman’s historic comeback win over Dewey, Bud Roper argued from the start that admitting their mistakes and pledging to discover the reasons why the polls had been so wrong was the only way to regain the trust of the public and business alike. This forthright approach was instrumental in restoring the industry’s reputation… Read more

Elmo Roper button

Elmo Roper

Elmo Roper did his first customer research while employed by the Traub Company in the early 1930s, trying to find out why their products were not selling better, and in 1933 he co-founded one of the first market research firms, Cherington, Wood, and Roper. In 1935, Roper became director of the Fortune Survey, the first national poll based on scientific sampling techniques… Read more

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Eleanor Singer

Singer edited Public Opinion Quarterly from 1975 to 1986, and with several co-authors wrote the textbook Survey Methodology. From 1987 to 1989 she was president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research and in 1996 was presented their lifetime achievement award… Read more

Samuel Stouffer button

Samuel Stouffer

At the outset of World War Two, Sam Stouffer left the confines of academia to lead an innovative research group for the War Department. Stouffer and his team surveyed over 500,000 American GIs during the war… Read more

Daniel Yankelovich

Daniel Yankelovich

In the mid-1970s, Daniel Yankelovich used his public opinion experience to found the New York Times/Yankelovich Poll… Read more