September 16, 2016

Can We Trust Political Polls and Why Do We Still Use Nielsen Ratings?

The answers to these questions have a common origin that takes us back 80 years to 1936. Commercial consumer and social research was a new business then – AC Nielsen had been founded 13 years previously (in 1936 it was about the same age as Facebook is now) and Gallup inc. was just one year old. As it turned out, events in 1936 would soon make Gallup front-page news. Like 2016, 1936 was a general election year in the US and there were opinion polls. One organization that considered itself expert in this field was The Literary Digest, a magazine that had been in the polling business since 1916.