Pathways to Polling: Crisis, Cooperation and the Making of Public Opinion Professions

1st Edition

Amy Fried

Published August 26, 2011
Reference - 192 Pages
ISBN 9780415891424 - CAT# Y116770

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In midcentury America, the public opinion polling enterprise faced a crisis of legitimacy. Every major polling firm predicted a win for Thomas Dewey over Harry Truman in the 1948 presidential election—and of course they all got it wrong. This failure generated considerable criticisms of polling and pollsters were forced to defend their craft, the quantitative analysis of public sentiment.

Pathways to Polling argues that early political pollsters, market researchers, and academic and government survey researchers were entrepreneurial figures who interacted through a broad network that was critical to the growth of public opinion enterprises. This network helped polling pioneers gain and maintain concrete, financial support to further their discrete operations. After the Truman-Dewey debacle, such links helped political polling survive when it could have just as easily been totally discredited. Amy Fried demonstrates how interactions between ideas, organizations, and institutions produced changes in the technological, political, and organizational paths of public opinion polling, notably affecting later developments and practice. Public opinion enterprises have changed a good deal, in the intervening half century, even as today’s approaches have been deeply imprinted by these early efforts.


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