The Superpollsters: How They Measure and Manipulate Public Opinion in America

By David W. Moore | Go to book overview
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4
THE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL POLLSTERS

DESPITE LOU HARRIS' inaugural role as presidential pollster in the 1960 election, the advent of modern presidential campaign polling is more accurately fixed a dozen years later, when a young undergraduate from Harvard University dazzled the politicos with his uncanny ability to help George McGovern, perhaps the most successful, long shot candidate in American history, obtain the Democratic presidential nomination. For a decade and a half, Pat Caddell was a major force in Democratic politics, widely perceived as one of the most creative minds in the business, but one who engendered more controversy and publicity than any of his colleagues before or since.

In addition to Caddell, who also polled for Jimmy Carter, only two other pollsters have served the Democratic presidential nominees in this era of modern polling: Peter Hart for Walter Mondale, in 1984, and Irwin "Tubby" Harrison for Michael Dukakis, in 1988. The youngest of the three is Caddell, born in 1950, and the oldest is Harrison, born twenty years earlier. Hart is about halfway between the two. Despite the considerable age span, all three began their polling careers in the mid to late 1960s, after revolutionary changes had profoundly influenced the role of polling in presidential elections.

The first change was the advent of the computer and statistical software, which elevated the analysis of polling data to a level of sophistication that far outstripped anything Lou Harris or Claude Robinson could do in the 1960 campaign. The second was

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