Pollster John Zogby Becomes "The Polltakers' Poster Boy"

By Curtiss, Richard H. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 31, 1997 | Go to article overview

Pollster John Zogby Becomes "The Polltakers' Poster Boy"


Curtiss, Richard H., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Pollster John Zogby Becomes "The Polltakers' Poster Boy"

"All Hail Zogby, the pollster who conquered the 1996 election...In polling getting it right is the best revenge. And that's exactly what Zogby did last week." -- Public Opinion Analyst Richard Morin, Washington Post, Nov. 10, 1996.

Pollster John Zogby's telephone has seldom stopped ringing in the three months since the November elections. At that time his biggest contract was for polling in the United States for London-based Reuters News Service. Now, after getting the 1996 presidential elections just right, and beating all his competitors in a crowded field, he already has a Reuters contract for polling in Canada and Latin America, and is receiving other offers daily.

Although home base for his organization, Zogby International, will remain in his home town of New Hartford, a suburb of Utica, NY, Zogby also is opening an office in Washington, DC. And his expanding corporate work now includes marketing surveys for major clients from coast to coast.

Zogby already had been in the polling business for several years when his results in 1994 New York elections confounded his competitors but proved to be right in the end. Big-time national recognition came, however, only after the votes were counted in the 1996 election. From early in the campaign, his polls predicted Bill Clinton would win by a much smaller margin than any of the other major pollsters were showing. Their derision grew as the gap widened.

The Zogby poll's final numbers, however, were uncannily accurate because he not only got Clinton's eight-point winning margin right, but also was the only pollster who got the numbers for Bob Dole and Ross Perot right as well. Most of his chagrined competitors, like Richard Morin of The Washington Post, quoted above, were gracious. Others, like The New York Times, whose CBS/New York Times final poll had predicted Clinton would win by an 18-point margin, were not. It printed a compilation of final polling figures from different organizations that, by obscuring the extent of Zogby's triumph, masked how far off base the final CBS/Times poll results had been.

Other daily newspapers were less grudging, even if they had printed the less accurate figures of other organizations. Wrote Jim Norman in USA Today, from which the figures in the accompanying box were taken:

"In a year when almost every poll overestimated President Clinton's 8 percentage point margin of victory, one pollster was on the money. John Zogby, a newcomer to presidential polling, projected Clinton would win 49 percent of the vote to Bob Dole's 41 percent, Ross Perot's 8 percent, and 2 percent for others. Those were the exact outcomes of Tuesday's vote."

"Zogby, a maverick, is the landslide election winner of the polling contest of 1996," wrote the Seattle Post Intelligencer. "Not only did he call this year's presidential race right, this David also beat the Goliaths in 1992."

Deborah Orin, Washington bureau chief for the New York Post, said, "I have now seen him do three races that almost everyone but him got wrong. …

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