55 The Polling Family of Blawenburg

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Logo of the Gallup Organization

What started as curiosity, turned to interest, then to research, and finally to a business that has endured for over 85 years. George H. Gallup began a polling company in the 1930s based on his childhood interest in ideas and people. The company grew, and the name Gallup became synonymous with polling in the United States and around the world. This world-class pioneering polling family lived in Blawenburg most of their lives.

Dr. George Gallup on the cover of Time, May 3, 1948

Caption: In an election year, a political slide rule

Dr. George H. Gallup

The family of George Horace Gallup (November 18, 1901—July 26, 1984), patriarch of the Gallup poll, immigrated early to America, arriving in 1630. They lived in the Stonington, CT area for eight generations until George’s father, George Henry Gallup, moved to Jefferson, Iowa to pursue dairy farming.

His father was always interested in new ideas and encouraged his children to challenge the status quo. George was an inquisitive child, foreshadowing his lifelong passion for trying to help people figure out how to solve society’s predicaments. As his biography from the Gallup Organization says, “His singular vision was that the solutions to many of society's problems would be found in understanding the thoughts and feelings of the individual.”

In high school, George was an excellent student and standout athlete. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Iowa as a journalism major. At UI he played on the football team, was active in Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity life, and served as editor of the newspaper, The Daily Iowan. He received his BA in 1923, an MA in 1925, and a PhD in Journalism in 1928.

He headed the Journalism Department at Drake University until 1931, then went on to Northwestern University as a professor. Just a year later, he moved to New York City to work for Young and Rubicam, a large advertising agency. He applied his interest in public opinion to create the Impact method to determine the effectiveness of radio advertising. At the time, pollsters sought any opinions they could find. Typically, they used telephone directories and car registration lists to find people.