Gallup Polls Essay

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In 1935, educator and researcher George Gallup (1901–1984) founded the precursor to the Gallup Organization with his creation of the American Institute of Public Opinion. Although the Gallup Organization serves multiple functions in business, management, and consulting, it is best known for its international reputation as a trusted source for measuring public opinion through its numerous and varied Gallup Polls. In addition to its national and global surveys related to multiple social and political matters, the Gallup Organization has also made significant contributions to the field of education through its annual survey of public attitudes related to public schools in conjunction with Phi Delta Kappa (PDK). This entry looks at the organization and its educational role.

The Gallup Organization

When Dr. Gallup founded the Gallup Organization, he set out with a personal dedication to gathering and reporting the “public will” through independent and objective polling. The Gallup Organization has kept its founder’s personal vision in focus. To this day, the Gallup Organization refuses requests for sponsored or paid polls and will not undertake polling that represents any particular agenda or special interest group. Similar to its historic dedication to objectivity and independence, the Gallup Organization also remains firmly committed to discovering public attitudes along a wide array of current issue areas.

“Gallup” became a household name in 1936, when the first Gallup Poll contradicted the most popular pollster of the time to successfully predict that Franklin Delano Roosevelt would win the U.S. presidency. With its genesis as a barometer for predominantly political issues, the Gallup Poll has expanded its focus over the years and now covers a diverse and comprehensive list of topics related to political, social, and economic subjects. The Gallup Organization has also grown beyond its original location in Princeton, New Jersey, and now conducts business from offices across the world. Likewise, the subjects of Gallup’s public opinion polls have extended well beyond U.S. borders. The first global polls were conducted in the late 1930s to gather and report public opinion across almost fifty countries prior to the start of World War II.

With the addition of its landmark global quality of life survey in 1976, the Gallup Poll has become an internationally recognized and respected source for public opinion data. Today, the Gallup Poll continues to provide thorough and in-depth examinations of public attitudes across an expansive range of matters such as politics, elections, crime, education, civil liberties, moral and controversial issues, economics, business, the environment, religion, war, personal concerns, and so on. Overall, the Gallup Poll provides a useful service to many different arenas, including, but not limited to, the field of education.

Contributions To Education

For educators, “Gallup Poll” is synonymous with the annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools that began in the late 1960s and was originally envisioned by James Kettering and Edward Brainard of the Kettering Foundation. George Gallup became involved as the first director of this well-known educational public opinion poll in 1969. The PDK/Gallup Poll, published annually in the Phi Delta Kappan education journal, collects and reports America’s thoughts on a series of contemporary issues in public education. George Gallup was involved in the yearly generation of each PDK/Gallup Poll until his son and cochair of the Gallup Organization took his place upon his death.

Today, a team of coauthors oversees the creation and production of the annual education poll. Although a variety of funders have provided financial support for the poll since its inception in the late 1960s, the Phi Delta Kappa Educational Foundation has been the sole funder of the annual education poll since 2004.

The annual PDK/Gallup Poll was originally intended to reach an audience consisting primarily of educators to inform their understanding and practice. Although the poll certainly continues to meet this original requirement, it has achieved greater significance over the years. Today, the PDK/Gallup Poll is largely seen as a meaningful source of information for educators, policy makers, political leaders, and the general public. Each Gallup Poll, including the annual education poll, is focused on significant and timely issues of the day. Poll readers will find information relevant to contemporary issues in education, as well as lines of questioning intended to track public attitudes through polling trends over time.

Another fundamental aspect of the annual PDK/Gallup Poll that often gets widespread attention in the general press relates to poll respondents’ “grades” of the public schools both overall and in their communities. Because public schools are inherently accountable to the public, the annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools serves a noteworthy function to the field.

In addition to its contributions to the field of education through the annual Gallup Education Poll, the ,Gallup Organization also provides consulting and research services to public and private educational organizations through its education branch. Overall, the Gallup Organization provides important services to the field of education and successfully illustrates how an outside organization can inform, support, and influence the field.


  1. Gallup, A. M. (1999). The Gallup Poll cumulative index: Public opinion, 1935–1997. Lanham, MD: SR Books.
  2. Moore, D. W. (1995). The superpollsters: How they measure and manipulate public opinion in America. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows.
  3. Mueller, J., Niemi, R., & Smith, T. (Eds.). (1989). Trends in public opinion: A compendium of survey data. New York: Greenwood.
  4. Rose, L. C. (2006). A brief history of the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll. Phi Delta Kappan, 87(8), 631–633.
  5. Gallup Organization:
  6. PDK/Gallup Poll Resources:

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