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The Measure of Democracy

The Measure of Democracy: Polling, Market Research, and Public Life, 1930-1945

Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The Measure of Democracy
    Book Description:

    Examining the early years of public opinion polling in Canada, Robinson situates polling within the context of its forerunners - market research surveys and American opinion polling - and charts its growth until its first use by political parties.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8171-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
    Daniel Robinson
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-9)

    The 1940 release of the polling classicThe Pulse of Democracywas a milestone for both its authors. For Saul Rae, the twenty-six-year-old Canadian who two years earlier had completed a London School of Economics PhD thesis on public opinion, it was an opportunity to convey polling-related ideas to a wide audience, not just the members of a dissertation committee. Recruited by George Gallup in early 1939 while still in Britain, Rae had spent the past year as a visiting fellow at Princeton University, assisting with Gallupʹs polling firm, the American Institute of Public Opinion (AIPO), and co-writing the monograph.¹...

  7. 1 Polling Consumers: The Rise of Market Research Surveys
    (pp. 10-38)

    Consumer surveys, the progenitor of public opinion polling, appeared in the late 1920s as a response to the perceived business ʹproblemʹ of marketing. Production methods, assisted by business statistics and scientific techniques, were significantly more rationalized and efficient by the 1920s than previously, especially among large manufacturers. But there were few comparable improvements in the marketing of goods. Consumer sample surveys offered a means of gauging and anticipating consumer wants, thus enabling better production planning. More important, they were a powerful tool for advertisers to penetrate the desires and behaviour of Canadaʹs ʹbuying publics,ʹ securing data to improve the effectiveness...

  8. 2 ʹSelling Toothpaste and Plumbing the Public Mindʹ: George Gallup and American Democracy
    (pp. 39-63)

    In the summer of 1936 theLiterary Digestbegan work on its presidential straw poll. Starting in August and continuing until mid-October, millions of voter ʹballotsʹ would be mailed to Americans across the country asking them to return the postage-paid cards indicating their choice between Franklin Roosevelt and Alfred Landon. The 1936 election was but the latest chapter in the magazineʹs long involvement with straw votes. Since the 1890s, theDigestʹs publishers had been amassing names and addresses of likely magazine subscribers. By the 1920s, the mailing list had grown to over twenty million entries, thanks largely to the inclusion...

  9. 3 Polling Citizens: Gallup in Canada
    (pp. 64-93)

    As in the United States, Gallup polling in Canada promised democratic regeneration. The voices of ordinary citizens would now compete with those of pols and special interest groups. ʹThe People,ʹ as constituted by the polls, could finally assume their rightful, central place in the body politic. Scientific expertise helped facilitate and legitimate this exercise in grassroots rejuvenation; time and time again, Canadian Gallup officials would claim, accurate election forecasts ʹprovedʹ the representative (and hence democratic) nature of the sample survey. But in Canada, as in the United States, Gallup polling constructed a composite portrait of ʹvotingʹ Canadians which differed fundamentally...

  10. 4 Mobilizing Popular Consent: The Surveyed Home Front
    (pp. 94-125)

    The Second World War was an initiation by fire for opinion polling and those associated with it. Mere months after its formation, the Canadian Institute of Public Opinion took on the weighty responsibility of being the governmentʹsde factopollster. Coordinating this polling program in the Wartime Information Board was J.D. Ketchum, the University of Toronto psychologist who only recently had acquired a grounding in survey research. The key government proponents of polling – Walter Turnbull, Brooke Claxton, and John Grierson – had to overcome opposition from cabinet notables like T.A. Crerar and J.L. Ilsley. Despite these initial obstacles, private...

  11. 5 Pols and Polls
    (pp. 126-157)

    ʹThe twentieth century and Canadian politics come to terms this year,ʹ Richard Gwyn wrote in theFinancial Postin April 1962, for the country was on the brink of its ʹfirst scientific election.ʹ Two ʹcompletely new weaponsʹ were reconfiguring the electoral landscape – ʹprivately hired, public opinion surveys,ʹ and their adjunct, ʹsophisticated, probing, statistical analysis.ʹ When combined with state-of-the-art advertising and communication techniques, the election promised a turning-point in Canadian politics, a critical juncture in which ʹthe skills of sociologists, statisticians, advertising experts, pollsters, and mass-communications expertsʹ would match or surpass the ʹage-old talents of politicians.ʹ² Modernity, both its scientific...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 158-164)

    During the early hours of 28 March 1938, Mackenzie King, the former industrial relations counsellor to the Rockefeller empire, dreamt about public relations. ʹI was planning a course and noting the different subjects that should be a part of it – economics, international law, constitutional history, etc.ʹ² Nine years later, however, when the University of Torontoʹs Department of University Extension offered Canadaʹs first public relations course, its content would bear little resemblance to Kingʹs nocturnal musings. Co-sponsored by the Association of Canadian Advertisers and the Advertising and Sales Club of Toronto, the twelve-week evening course, targeted to a business audience,...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 165-228)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-242)
  15. Index
    (pp. 243-252)