THE SUPERPOLLSTERS: How They Measure and Manipulate Public Opinion in America by David W. Moore

THE SUPERPOLLSTERS: How They Measure and Manipulate Public Opinion in America

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From a veteran pollster, a thoughtful overview of public-opinion research and of those who helped make it a sociopolitical force in the US. In an opening chapter longer on prurient than substantive interest, Moore dashes Shere Hite's claims that her popular studies of human sexuality are based on representative samples. Then this director of the Univ. of New Hampshire's Survey Center Institute gets down to business, reviewing the careers and contributions of such pioneer pollsters as George Gallup (who made a name for himself by predicting FDR's 1936 electoral victory), Elmo Roper, and Archibald Grossley. Moore next focuses critical attention on latter-day notables who have served candidates and elected or appointed officials from the nation's two major political parties. Cases in point range from Louis Harris (JFK) through Pat Caddell (McGovern, Carter), Robert Teeter (Nixon, Ford, Bush), and Robert Wirthlin (Reagan). Covered as well are the canvasses conducted by media organizations (including CBS, The Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal), plus regional operations like Mervin Field's California Poll. Ultimately, Moore remains ambivalent about the uses to which his profession's powers have been put. He concedes, for example, that tricks of the trade (projective questions, dubious demographics, the ceaseless search for ""a truth the public will buy"") have enabled partisan pollsters to engage in low-road campaign tactics and have enhanced their capacity to employ statistics to manipulate the electorate. On the other hand, he argues, scientific polling has yielded a better understanding of public opinion's dynamics and what Americans think about important issues at any given time. An informed and informative appreciation of an influential industry.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1992
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Four Walls Eight Windows