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Society of Presidential Pollsters
From FDR to Barack Obama, Presidents of the United States have established unique and private relationships with their pollsters. There are very few people who have served in this capacity, as an advisor on public opinion. Presidential polling—the questions asked, the answers compiled, and the way in which that information is used in decision-making—paint an important picture of the history of American democracy.
It is in this spirit that the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management has created the Society of Presidential Pollsters to archive and further examine the role public opinion plays in shaping decision-making strategy in the White House.
History and Mission of the Society
The Society was founded in 2010 thanks to a generous donation from Mark J. Penn, former pollster to President Bill Clinton. It has a three-fold purpose:
To archive and preserve the work of those who have polled for a sitting president
To collect and share the history of the presidential pollster
To stimulate debate and camaraderie in the profession through special events and gatherings
The Society works to locate and obtain records of the polling and related analysis done for the Oval Office. With the help of the libraries at GW, it preserves questionnaires, letters, and memorabilia in order to establish an academic resource for the study of presidential decision-making.
Secondarily, the Society aims to delineate the often-elusive role of the presidential pollster. By studying the records obtained, conducting independent research, and working with contemporary historians, it weaves a narrative of the position going back to the FDR administration.
And thirdly, the Society brings these professionals together. Current pollsters will benefit greatly from an engaged community of veteran “Pollsters General,” as journalist Bill Schneider once dubbed the position.
Events and Archives
GSPM and the Society host discussion panels, guest speakers, round tables, and networking events to foster conversation and debate within the field, as well as develop a connection and kinship among the pollsters.
The papers of President Bill Clinton’s pollster and the Society’s founder, Mark J. Penn, are the first to have been submitted to the archives and will be available for research in the near future. This collection includes the actual data in both hard copy cross-tabulations and in researchable electronic form as well as the memoranda and analysis provided to the President.
Beyond events and archives, the ultimate role of the Society of Presidential Pollsters is to pay much-deserved tribute to an important group of advisors to presidents and presidential candidates over the last 70 years.
For more information about the Society of Presidential Pollsters contact Chris Rotella.