George Gallup - a career which consisted of alternately gloating and scraping egg off his face.

George H. Gallup And His Wildly Unpredictable Gallup Poll – 1948 – Past Daily Reference Room

George Gallup – a career which consisted of alternately gloating and scraping egg off his face.

Dr. George H. Gallup – Meet The Press – November 14, 1948 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

The Gallup Poll became synonymous with polling public opinion, mostly on political events. Dr. George H. Gallup was its founder and the brains behind figuring out who liked what and why and how many of them were there. Many times he was right and Gallup became the household name associated with predicting election outcomes and the go-to source for sorting out the sometimes baffling and unpredictable pulse of the nation’s voters.

But when he was wrong, pundits and broadcasters lined up, tossing a flurry of denunciations at Gallup’s method of gathering data and always came up short of tar-and-feathering him for his blunders.

One such blunder, and it was a big one, was the 1948 Presidential election. Most people remember it as the one highlighted by the photo of Harry Truman gleefully holding a newspaper whose headline proclaimed “Dewey Defeats Truman”. Truman, who had been somewhere below basement level in popularity prior to the election was assured by Gallup and his pollsters that he would not, in a million years, be re-elected as President. That the honor would go to Republican challenger Thomas E. Dewey. So certain was Gallup and subsequently so certain was the Media that Truman’s loss at the polls was a slam-dunk that some newspapers went ahead and printed headlines for their morning editions saying Truman got a drubbing and the Presidency was Dewey’s. And some newscasters famously predicted Truman would go down to defeat almost as soon as the polls closed.

So it was more than a little embarrassing to find out the winner was Harry Truman, whose second term was assured and that George Gallup wound up on the receiving end of more than a few choice remarks, if this interview via Meet The Press is any indication how the rest of the country went.

Polls continue to be used and their accuracy still comes under scrutiny some 74 years after this broadcast. The panel interview via Meet The Press is a classic example of how the Press used to handle these catastrophic boners and it’s interesting how George Gallup tries to defend himself.

Some things just never change. Here is that complete Meet The Press from November 14, 1948 from NBC.


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