From Publishers Weekly
Between now and the November election, public opinion polls will be all but unavoidable. Those who question their value may find this plainspoken defense by the editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll illuminating. Newport is an effective communicator who clarifies the process that distills from the opinions of a mere 1,000 interviewees an accurate reflection of the opinions of tens of millions of Americans. Newport believes that polls reflect the country's collective wisdom, a wisdom politicians should heed not merely to court votes but to reap the benefits of the diverse and complex American experience. The author tackles each of the common criticisms of polls, such as that politicians who pay too much attention to polls fail to lead; that citizens are too uneducated to offer useful opinions; and that basing policies on polls would result in a "tyranny of the majority." Jackson's defense is mostly convincing. His most glaring failure is to adequately address the effect on opinions of false advertising, political propaganda and other sources of misinformation. Newport's description of how polls work is filled with professional argot that gives his explanations an aura of scientific respectability and credibility. Readers will come away understanding why and how polls work, but some will not be as convinced as Newport of their value as a policy tool.
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About the Author
Frank Newport, Gallup Editor-in-Chief and one of the nation s leading public opinion analysts, has spent the major part of his working life studying public opinion much of that opinion about religion. Newport earned a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Michigan and has worked as a college professor, as a partner in a market research firm, and as Gallup s chief pollster for more than 20 years. He is the former president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. The son of a Southern Baptist theologian, Newport grew up in that tradition in Texas and graduated from Baylor University. Newport s religious background and his current role as a neutral social scientist give him a unique ability to probe the reality of religion in the United States today.