The Pollsters: Public Opinion, Politics and Democratic Leadership

By Linday Rogers | Go to book overview

tion Mr. Roper declared that

"no political miracles have taken place,"
and gave Mr. Dewey some advice on the strategy that would be appropriate for the election in 1952.
"We have never claimed infallibility,"
declared Dr. George Gallup,
"but next Tuesday the whole world will be able to see down to the last percentage point how good we are."
Well, the whole world saw how very, very bad they were. As has been sagely remarked, the most painful tumble a man can take is to fall over his own bluff.

This part of the polling business I had considered of minor importance. I intended only to ask whether by donning the mantles of prophets the pollsters were serving any public interest; to point out that the "accuracy" of which they boasted proved on close examination to be spotty; to note that while the pollsters made no concealment of, they were reticent about the fact that they "adjusted" the percentages they got from their samples; and to say that while it might not be probable, it was entirely possible that they would come a cropper.

Now, although I have to note that they have come a bad cropper, and mention certain whys and wherefores that have always been latent, I have let the following pages remain substantially in the form that they had before November 2, 1948, which is a day the pollsters will long remember. As the following analysis will emphasize, my criticisms of the polls go to questions more fundamental than imperfections in sampling methods or inaccuracy in predicting the results of elections.

Thus I regret that my criticism of the pollsters comes at a time when they are hiding their heads in shame. I

-vi-

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