One of the few indisputable facts in politics is that modern political polling was born in Princeton. In 1935 George Gallup, already a seasoned advertising and market research whiz, bet his name that he could take simple questions, apply scientific oversight, and predict with startling accuracy the outcome of the 1936 presidential race.
And he won.
For 53 years the Gallup Organization capitalized on its founder’s insight and became a household name by conducting polls and researching products, markets, and companies from its birthplace. After George Gallup died in 1984 the family ran the business for four years before selling it to Nebraska-based Selection Research Inc.
Twenty years later the world’s most famous research company still operates in Princeton — at 502 Carnegie Center — but it no longer conducts polls from here. The Gallup Organization’s world headquarters are now in Washington, D.C., and its polling is often done from Houston; its data processing in Omaha; its other duties from offices all across the country. It has dozens of offices worldwide and it conducts polls on issues ranging from abortion to the workplace.
Gallup Poll’s information, though gathered and analyzed outside New Jersey, is, nontheless, the responsibility of editor-in-chief Frank Newport, above right, whose office is in Carnegie Center. Regardless of how information gets to him or where it comes from, Gallup Poll reports still come tagged with a Princeton dateline.
Gallup’s website displays a long list of reports about the 2008 presidential race, based on its own research and analysis. More than simply keeping track of who is in the lead and by how much, Gallup has tackled the subtler points that define those ever-shifting little margins — which candidate is really winning over white women (John McCain, but not by much), how the Wall Street meltdown and pending bailout are defining campaigns (it is giving a slight edge to Barack Obama), and even whether presidential debates truly matter to the final numbers (they rarely do).
Like every major player in the market research and public opinion business Gallup does not survive on political polling alone. “Probably 95 percent of our work is for business and industry,” Newport says. But Gallup, he says, remains “absolutely committed to continuing its political polling. It’s part of our tradition and it helps the whole democratic process.”
Gallup remains a powerhouse name in politics. The company, which did polling for CNN until 2006, still polls for USA Today.
The Gallup Organization, 502 Carnegie Center, Suite 300, Princeton 08540; 609-924-9600; fax, 609-279-2540. Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll. www.gallup.com.