Public Opinion Polls
Public opinion polls have become commonplace in the United States. Polls, sometimes referred to as surveys, are the systematic collection of opinions, attitudes, and perceptions of citizens, usually captured by way of a sample of some larger population. Writing in the 1920s, the journalist and political commentator Walter Lippmann expressed antipathy to polling citizens, believing that knowing what ordinary citizens think about a particular social issue would be no help to those whose purpose it was to make decisions about public policy. During the same period, George Gallup and Elmo Roper believed just the opposite, arguing forcefully that what people think quite often can put people in and out of public office, contribute to decisions about whether to take the nation to war, and can set the tone and the standard for public morality in general. The first Gallup poll, for example, received quite a debut in The Washington Post ...