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Helped Americans know what what was on their nation's mind




9-4-1930 21-11-2011

GEORGE Gallup, who led the company his father made all but synonymous with polling and expanded it to become a barometer of Americans' views on religion as well as politics, has died of liver cancer in Princeton, New Jersey. He was 81.

Gallup had once considered becoming an Episcopal priest, and graduated with a degree in religion in 1953. But the pull of the family enterprise proved stronger, and he joined his older brother, Alec, at his father's company, serving as an executive from the mid-1950s until his retirement in 2004. While Gallup lamented late in his life that politicians follow polls rather than their conscience, he echoed his father in arguing that polling was vital to democracy.

"It's removed power out of the hands of special interest groups," he said in an interview a few years ago. "It's given people who wouldn't normally have a voice a voice."

Surveying Americans' views on schools, families and institutions, he used the results to paint a portrait of the nation.

Much of his work involved political polls. But he also expanded Gallup surveys into religion, becoming one of the first pollsters to ask questions about the subject. His religion research "was way before its time", said Andrew Kohut, president of the Gallup Organisation from 1981 to 1989 and now president of the Pew Research Centre.

Gallup's surveys also formed the basis for several books on spirituality and religion. Adventures in Immortality, published in 1982, reported that 46 per cent of Americans believed there was life on other planets, and 24 per cent believed they could contact the dead.

George Horace Gallup III was born in Evanston, Illinois. His father, George snr, founded the polling firm in 1935. The younger Gallup married Kingsley Hubby in 1959. She died in 2007. His brother, Alec, died in 2009. He is survived by daughters Alison and Kingsley, son George, sister Julia Gallup Laughlin, and two grandchildren.

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