Even though no one is asking us for our opinion, given the subject of this week’s cover story we feel compelled to offer a few thoughts with respect to the unlucky 7s in the recent headlines: the $700 billion bailout and the $777 drop in the stock market.

For what it’s worth, while we sympathize with the large financial institutions that are either out of business or gravely ill, and while we realize that their problems may soon be our problems, as well, we have to say that a lot of us have been feeling the pressure of a slowing economy for many months now. The media has focussed attention on its own financial problems, caused by declining advertising, and our informal talks with people in other sectors suggests that they have had to tighten their belts as well.

There may be some truth to Barack Obama’s campaign quip that Wall Street is now discovering what Main Street has known all along. There also may be some lessons for Washington that come from small business communities such as ours. We looked back through our bank statements for the last 18 months or so to look for bad checks dumped upon us — an indicator of reckless spending and poor planning if nothing else. To our surprise we uncovered no more than could be counted on one hand.

In its understandable zest to solve this problem, we hope Washington is as prudent as Princeton.

About this week’s cover story on Opinion Research Corporation. The company came to our attention over the summer, when we received a press release announcing ORC’s imminent move from 600 College Road East in the Forrestal Center to 902 Carnegie Center, the recently completed building on the west side of Route 1.

This being an election year (and having used the occasion of the 2004 election to profile the Gallup Poll) we asked Scott Morgan to dig deeper into the company. His story on ORC begins on page 44, and a sidebar on Gallup appears on 47.

As longtime Princetonians can tell you, both ORC and Gallup are descendants of the original polling companies that were born here back in the 1930s, when George Gallup realized that an objective, scientific approach to gathering opinions could supplant the “straw polls” prevalent at the time.

While public opinion polling operations moved out of Princeton years ago, a search of the market research category at the company database at www.princetoninfo.com reveals a total of 36 companies, many of them started by veterans of the public opinion polls (search hint: market research is a subset of the communications category). That kind of resiliency suggests a possible restating of the much-ridiculed campaign comment by John McCain: That the financial community’s problems notwithstanding, the fundamentals of the greater Princeton economy remain strong.

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