Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Taking Society's Measure

Taking Society's Measure: A Personal History of Survey Research

Edited and with an Introduction by HUBERT J. O’GORMAN
With the Assistance of ELEANOR SINGER
Copyright Date: 1991
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Taking Society's Measure
    Book Description:

    How are we, as members of a society, informed of conditions that affect our social welfare? How does the government register the impact of its actions on its citizens? The turbulent 1930s saw the emergence of sample survey research as an increasingly valuable technique of social inquiry. Perhaps no one championed this nascent discipline as vigorously as Herbert Hyman, one of those pioneering investigators whose talents were so closely associated with the rapid growth of survey research that their professional careers and reputations became virtually indistinguishable from the field itself.

    Hyman's personal account is a remarkable contribution to the history and sociology of social research. His experiences with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Office of War Information, the U.S. Bombing Surveys of Germany and Japan, the National Opinion Research Center, and the Bureau of Applied Social Research are all documented with fascinating insight into the critical events and prominent individuals that shaped the field of survey research between the late 1930s and the late 1950s.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-301-2
    Subjects: Psychology, Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
    Eleanor Singer
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxiv)
    Hubert J. OʹGorman

    The emergence of sample survey research as a technique of social inquiry was significant in the evolution of social knowledge. Although its immediate origins can be traced back to the late nineteenth century, survey research became increasingly visible as a coherent mode of empirical investigation between the late 1930s and the late 1950s. More particularly, it was during the war and postwar years that sample survey research was first applied on an extensive scale, studied and tested intensively, codified, and then taught as a distinctive research technique. This is the period to which Herbert Hyman devotes most of his attention...

  5. PART ONE: The War Years

    • 1 The Division of Program Surveys: U.S. Department of Agriculture
      (pp. 3-22)

      In June 1942, when I joined the Division of Program Surveys of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency—directed and inspired by Rensis Likert—was just beginning to develop and conduct sample surveys of opinions and attitudes of Americans on a variety of wartime problems. The agency was the forerunner of the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan, founded in 1946 when Likert and some of the original staff relocated in an academic setting.

      The Division had been established in 1939, following a reorganization of the Department of Agriculture to carry forward research begun in 1936 on...

    • 2 The Surveys Division: Office of War Information
      (pp. 23-62)

      It was late 1942 when the crisis at Program Surveys led a group of us to join the Office of War Information (OWI). The Surveys Division of OWI began conducting research in November 1941 and continued until July 1944, when it was liquidated after the Congress terminated its appropriation.¹ Despite its short life, the Division played an important part in the development of survey research. It was crucial to the survival and growth of the National Opinion Research Center—then only an infant organization facing a precarious future. The complexity and variety of its wartime studies and the pace of...

    • 3 Stouffer’s Surveys: Research Branch of the War Department
      (pp. 63-90)

      Beginning in the fall of 1941 and throughout the war, the Research Branch of the War Department’s Information and Education Division, under the direction of Samuel A. Stouffer,¹ conducted over 200 different surveys. In the course of these surveys more than half a million soldiers spread across the world were questioned on their knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes about the war and their conduct and adjustment to military service. The substantive findings from this massive, systematic, and unique program of survey research were important enough to earn the Research Branch a place in this history. In addition, it also contributed to...

    • 4 The Bombing Surveys: Germany and Japan
      (pp. 91-136)

      On November 3, 1944, following a directive from President Roosevelt, the secretary of war established the United States Strategic Bombing Survey of Germany. Although the organization employed 850 officers and enlisted men and depended for essential services on the Army and Air Forces, it was not attached to any branch of the military. Advisedly, it became an autonomous agency under civilian control within the secretaryʹs office and was given freedom of inquiry. The 300 civilian members were led by an eleven-member directorate with Franklin DʹOlier, then president of the Prudential Life Insurance Company, as chairman and Henry C. Alexander, a...

  6. PART TWO: The Postwar Years

    • 5 The Establishment of the National Opinion Research Center
      (pp. 139-178)

      Soon after the war ended, I joined the National Opinion Research Center and remained there for more than ten years. In that period, NORC moved to the University of Chicago, long famed for its social science division and its empirical social research. NORC expanded, attracted social scientists and graduate students, contributed to training and scholarship in the social sciences, and over the years conducted many varied and useful surveys. NORCʹs history illustrates how survey research became established in universities and integrated with the social sciences, thus creating a new academic career of surveyor-scholar-teacher. My own experience at NORC illustrates the...

    • 6 The Rise and Fall of the Bureau of Applied Social Research
      (pp. 179-222)

      A knowledge of the history of the Bureau of Applied Social Research and of NORC is essential to understanding the various ways survey research became established in major American universities and integrated with the social sciences. Allen Barton, the Bureauʹs director over its last fifteen years, proposed one model to guide him and other writers.

      The rise and fall of the Bureau of Applied Social Research, and the life of its founder and mentor, Paul Lazarsfeld, should ideally be presented as a drama by Brecht, accompanied by the dissonant and jazzy music of pre-Nazi Central Europe, and its depression-time equivalent...

  7. References
    (pp. 223-236)
  8. Index
    (pp. 237-257)