One pundit said that “data died” after the 2016 presidential election. Gallup’s editor-in-chief doesn’t think so.
On April 11th, Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport joined Merion West’s Erich Prince to discuss the state of polling post-2016, the impact of phrasing and question length on poll responses, and the economics of conducting polls in the Internet age.
Erich Prince: So to start off, you’ve had a variety of stops prior to becoming editor-in-chief of Gallup. I understand you’ve been a sociology professor, then a talk show host in Houston. Can you talk a little bit about how you became interested in polling and what led you to become editor-in-chief of Gallup?
Dr. Frank Newport: Well, that’s a complex history. I say that I’ve always been interested in people: understanding and dealing with people. That led me to get interested in sociology, which is a scientific study of human social behavior. One thing led to the other, and I ended up getting a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I went directly from there to the University of Missouri in St. Louis as an assistant professor of sociology. I was following that traditional track of studying humans, but then I got sidetracked.
I had always been interested in broadcasting, and I actually worked my way through college with broadcasting. I was very interested in that. So, after a few years in academia, I got fairly bored with that approach to life, so I actually moved to Houston and became a talk show host, among other things. I was exercising that side of my interest. Then, I got together with a pollster in Houston, who I had actually interviewed for a segment on one of my talk shows.
He was intrigued by my interest in both the media and also polling and social science. So I moved over and became a partner at his firm. I actually helped do polling and marketing research for media companies as clients. I got back into the business of studying humans. But instead of doing it in academia, I was doing it in the commercial sphere. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I later moved to Gallup and became editor-in-chief, and that’s where I am today.