An era has ended for the greater Princeton business community, as Gallup, the organization founded in 1935 on Nassau Street, has left the Carnegie Center office that was its last outpost in the area. The company long ago moved its headquarters to Washington and most of its operations to Kansas.
But until this year Gallup’s editor-in-chief, Frank Newport, led a team of fewer than 20 workers at Carnegie Center that was responsible for writing blog posts and videos about the results of its polls.
Now Newport works in Washington as well. “Across the globe Gallup is changing its office strategy, as more of our associates are embracing remote or onsite working, to have regional hub offices — collaborative, open plan facilities — placed at strategic locations. In the Princeton area, over the last few years, more of our Gallup associates have embraced working from home, working onsite with clients, or enjoyed using the new hub office in New York,” Newport wrote in an e-mail.
Jonathan Tozer, global communications director at Gallup, said over the last year the company moved to support the associates at the Princeton office in working from home.
George Gallup founded the company in 1935 as the American Institute of Public Opinion and began taking political surveys. He pioneered the use of polls using relatively small but carefully randomized samples. In 1936 it correctly predicted Franklin Roosevelt’s victory over Alfred Landon by polling just 5,000 scientifically selected people. By contrast, the Literary Digest magazine poll, in which 2.3 million people returned ballots, predicted an Alf Landon landslide.
In a history of Gallup’s polling methods, Newport wrote that at first, getting a random sample meant interviewers fanning out all over the country, knocking on doors. By 1986 enough Americans had telephones that it was possible to get a random sample by dialing respondents.
By the time phone polling became feasible, it was also possible to improve random sampling methods by use of computers. Gallup invented a complicated process of computer-generated phone numbers that would give any American with a phone an equal chance of being polled. The randomization was key to Gallup’s success. “In essence, this procedure creates a list of all possible household phone numbers in America and then selects a subset of numbers from that list for Gallup to call,” Newport wrote.
Gallup was once renowned for the accuracy of its presidential race polls, but stopped conducting them after its 2012 polls incorrectly showed a Romney win. (U.S. 1, March 30, 2016.)
After establishing a good reputation in the realm of public opinion polling in the 1930s, Gallup branched out into consumer polling and other business consulting activities.
The company once had several offices in what was Princeton Borough, and nearby locations, but since the 1980s, Gallup has reduced the number of workers in its historic hometown.
“The company’s worldwide footprint began to change significantly in the late 1980s when Gallup was acquired by Selection Research Inc. of Lincoln, Nebraska and began an era of expanded representation in Nebraska and in offices around the US and around the world,” Newport wrote. “In 2000 Gallup opened its new world headquarters in Washington, D.C. These expansions resulted in a smaller workforce in the historic Princeton office, which in the early 2000s had technically already left Princeton with a move to West Windsor’s Carnegie Center — albeit with a Princeton mailing address.”
Although Gallup is now gone from the Princeton area, it leaves behind a legacy in the opinion research industry. Today Princeton is home to dozens of market research firms including small companies that specialize in specific markets such as the healthcare sector. The Route 1 corridor is also home to several Gallup spinoffs and related firms started by former Gallup employees.
In 1938, Gallup, together with partner Claude Robinson, founded Opinion Research Corporation, an early market research company. Gallup left ORC in 1939, but the company continued on, and today has an office in Carnegie Center. Unlike Gallup, ORC never left the presidential polling business, and the CNN/ORC poll is frequently cited in political reporting. The company has offices in multiple cities in the U.S. as well as Great Britain, Australia, and China. It reported $500 million in revenue last year.
In 1948 Gallup and Robinson founded yet another market research firm, appropriately named Gallup & Robinson, which specialized in advertising research. That company is still headquartered on North Main Street in Pennington. Not content to merely poll audiences about their responses to advertisements, the company uses several high-tech methods, including a technique called facial electromyography, which G-R says measures positive and negative emotional reactions in subjects as they view advertisements.
Princeton Survey Research Associates was founded in 1989 by Andrew Kohut, one-time editor of the Gallup Poll. Today PRSA is located on Alexander Road and has an office in Washington. It specializes in public opinion polling.
Gallup, 502 Carnegie Center, Princeton.