The Pollsters: Public Opinion, Politics and Democratic Leadership

By Linday Rogers | Go to book overview

Chapter 14:
Stresses the importance of those who
reply "no opinion," and shows how in-
attention to these groups makes the re-
sults of polls misleading.

IN JUNE 1941 Dr. Gallup announced that

"among those with definite views on the subject, opinion is almost evenly divided on the question of America entering a new League after the war."
1 (Three years later more than half of the population thought that we had been in the old League.) 49 per cent would like to see the United States join a new league; 51 per cent would not. That question was a difficult one to answer, because who could have "definite views on the subject" in advance of having a definite idea of what kind of league it would be? If I had been in the sample, I might have said: "It's a silly question." Or I could have answered "yes," with the hope that the league, in President Wilson's phrase, would be a "vehicle of life" and permit international change and would not be a "strait jacket," which the creation of the Paris

____________________
1
The reader should not think that prewar polls are "out of date." The pollsters consider their work so significant that they are preparing two fat volumes which will list all of the yeses and noes on thousands of questions. One of the foundations interested in social science research is meeting the publication costs.

-152-

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