THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL POLLSTERS
SINCE 1972, EACH Republican nominee for president has used one of just two pollsters: Robert Teeter, who worked for Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and George Bush; and Richard Wirthlin, who worked for President Ronald Reagan. Born in 1931, Wirthlin is the older of the two by eight years, an academic who received his Ph.D. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, and who has had the most formal training in statistics. Not surprisingly, Wirthlin stresses the statistical sophistication of his work, to the point even of shrouding it in a mysterious design of his own invention, which he says he cannot reveal for fear of aiding his competitors. Teeter presents a stark contrast to Wirthlin in the way he describes his work. Rather than stressing the enigmatic character of polling and statistics, he stresses its basis in common sense. He is quick to point out that polling and devising campaign strategies are not "mystical" undertakings, that much of the public opinion measurement the press has found fascinating is really not much different from what is used routinely in market research, and that ultimately the key to good polling is not sophisticated mathematics, but simple good judgment.
Whatever their differences in describing their work, they share a common trait. Each is widely considered one of the two best Republican pollsters in the country today.