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Public opinion polls for historians

What's in this guide

This guide to public opinion polls is for researchers who do not need actual data for analysis, but are just looking for questions and answers. If you are looking for downloadable data sets that can be manipulated with statistical software (such as SPSS, SAS or Stata), please see the Public Opinion & Survey Data Guide and Data and Statistical Services for more help.

Major polling organizations

Gallup polls begin in 1935.

Harris polls begin in 1963.

Roper polls were initially conducted for Fortune Magazine in the late 1930's.


Public opinion and polling around the world: a historical encyclopedia. John G. Geer, editor. Santa Barbara, Calif. : ABC-CLIO, c2004.
Data and Statistical Services (DSS). Firestone HM1236 .P83 2004

2 volumes. Vol. 1 covers the U.S., vol. 2 covers the rest of the world. Despite the word "historical" in the title, the individual articles do not always answer basic questions like the date of the first public opinion poll in a given country.

Survey research in the United States: roots and emergence 1890-1960. Jean M. Converse. Berkeley : University of California Press, c1987.
Firestone Library (F) HA31.2 .C66 1987

The three bibliographies below list books and articles on the methods of polling and survey research. There are abstracts for every entry and there is a good index. They are not a guide to actual polls and their results, but are useful for understanding the practice of public opinion polling and how it may affect the results.

  • Polling and survey research methods, 1935-1979: an annotated bibliography. Compiled by Graham R. Walden. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1996.
    Firestone Library: Non Circulating (Fnc): Z7164.P956 W33 1996
  • Public opinion polls and survey research: a selective annotated bibliography of U.S. guides and studies from the 1980s. Graham R. Walden. New York : Garland Pub., 1990.
    Firestone Library: Non Circulating (Fnc): Z7164.P956 W34 1990
  • Survey research methodology, 1990-1999: an annotated bibliography. Compiled by Graham R. Walden. Westport, CT : Greenwood Press, c2003.
    Firestone Library: Non Circulating (Fnc): Z7164.S667 W35 2003

Dictionary of polling: the language of contemporary opinion research. Michael L. Young. New York : Greenwood Press, c1991.
Firestone Library (F) HM261 .Y684 1992