56 Years Ago In Time

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The science of polling has come a long way since 1948, when TIME did a cover story on GEORGE GALLUP. But even then, the results of his nationwide surveys had the potential to change the dynamics of a political race.

This week the Gallup poll had some sizzling statistics to report. After an unprecedented series of ups and downs, President Harry Truman's political popularity was within 4% of his alltime low. As of last week, only 36% of U.S. voters still thought the President was doing a good job. As the President's stock fell, the fortunes of his Republican rivals rose. The new leader of the Republican parade: meteoric Harold Stassen, whose 31% rating among Republican candidates sent him ahead of New York's Governor Tom Dewey for the first time. The news of Truman's slump sent a fresh wave of confidence surging through Republican ranks. It plunged Democrats into corresponding gloom. It also raised questions sure to be asked often between now and November. How accurate are the polls? Is their sampling really scientific? Are the polls, in short, leading democracy by its gullible nose?

--TIME, May 3, 1948