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Book Reviews

POLLING MATTERS: Why Leaders Must Listen to the Wisdom of the People

By Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll
ISBN: 0446530646 Hardcover 320 pages 6 x 9 WARNER BOOKS 

..."Polling is complex, fascinating, and important. Pollsters give themselves the task of figuring out what millions of people are thinking about a given topic and report the results in a matter of days or even hours….Polling uses small samples to represent the views of very large numbers of people, and it is difficult for many people to believe that this process provides a true understanding of what everyone in the larger society thinks....I'm convinced that once people go behind the scenes and learn how polling really works, they will be much more likely to appreciate the valuable role polling can play in a democratic society." -From POLLING MATTERS

Every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has relied on polls to gauge the thinking of the electorate. Major U.S. media outlets not only report on polls but also frequently commission their own. To its critics, polling can be dangerously imprecise, distort the work of press and politicians, and pose a mortal threat to the democratic process itself. To its defenders, polling is an invaluable source of information, giving us a unique and consistently accurate window into issues as diverse as voting preferences, gender differences, race relations, child rearing, consumer habits, health care, and education.

Now Frank Newport, editor in chief of The Gallup Poll-the nation's preeminent polling source-tells the skeptics why polls matter…and explains to the rest of us exactly how polling works. Proving that polls are not to be feared but to be used wisely, he shows us how:

• Polling can scientifically and accurately generalize about millions by examining the preferences of a random few

• Public opinion rejects the trendy in favor of the stable and traditional

• Pollsters can satisfy the media's growing appetite for polls without distorting or oversimplifying the data

• Politicians can use polling results to tailor their reflect genuine public opinion

• Poll analysts can maximize the value of polling results to journalists, politicians, and the public

• Polls collect the wisdom of the people more efficiently than the vote.

The people's voice is knowing and almost always on target. It forms what Dr. George Gallup-the founder of the famous poll that bears his name-proclaimed over sixty years ago as the true pulse of democracy. Fascinating, informative, and provocative, this book demonstrates how polls lie at the vital heart of a well-functioning and free society.