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Richard Wirthlin

Richard Bitner ("Dick") Wirthlin (March 15, 1931 – March 16, 2011) was an American pollster who served on Ronald Reagan’s staff starting in 1968 through the end of the Reagan presidency and served as chief strategist on Reagan's 1980 and 1984 presidential campaigns.


In 1969 Wirthlin founded a survey research firm based in Los Angeles which eventually became known as Wirthlin Worldwide. In 2004 it was sold to Harris Interactive.


He described his role as Reagan’s chief strategist in a 2004 memoir, “The Greatest Communicator: What Ronald Reagan Taught Me About Politics, Leadership, and Life.” Reagan, he wrote, “wasn’t interested in being told what to say — he intrinsically knew that. He was interested in the most effective way to convey his message.”


Wirthlin often tested elements of Reagan’s speeches and used a number of innovative techniques to measure audience reactions, and understand how best Reagan’s conservatism could be delivered to the voters.


Wirthlin once said that he “shuddered” when referred to as a pollster. "'Survey researcher' is fine," he said, "or economist, counsellor or consultant. But 'pollster' is too confining."


An aide to Reagan for more than 20 years, Wirthlin also acted as a political adviser and pollster to Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.


Richard Wirthlin was born in Salt Lake City and would, after the Reagan presidency, become a bishop in the LDS Church. Wirthlin obtained a B.A. in economics and an M.A. in economics and statistics from the University of Utah. He received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley.