On the sunny sidewalk outside a bookstore on Hollywood's North Vermont Avenue, a legless pencil peddler had set up his pitch. A pretty young woman knelt down beside him and began to ask him questions. Did he think Communists should be barred from jobs in vital U.S. industries? In a muddy Italian accent the peddler replied that he knew nothing about Communists, but he did know that he was paying too much for his $40-a-month room. Did he know who John L. Lewis was? That was easier. "Eez a boxer. A fighter."
Mrs. Irene Kadlec hunched down closer. With sympathy and perseverance, she coaxed forth the answers to a dozen other questions. She was doing her job as an interviewer for the Gallup Poll.
The halting replies did not disconcert her. She jotted down each one with meticulous care. When it was all over (it had taken 30 minutes), she made a few more notes at the bottom of her clipboard. Telephone? "No." Union member? "No." "Man." "White." She thanked the peddler and moved on to the park adjoining Central Public Library in dirty, downtown Los Angeles.
There she marched briskly up to a handsome, middle-aged man reading a mystery magazine. What was his favorite sport? Ballet dancing. What did he think of the U.S. policy shift in China? He had never heard of it. Before the day was out Pollster Kadlec had talked to a dozen other people. She was careful to avoid anyone in a hurry or anyone carrying packages. Among her choices: a 70-year-old attorney (who asked to be interviewed), a Negro carpenter, a woman artist (who did not think a meeting of Truman and Stalin would do any good).
Twenty-one hundred miles away, in Chicago, a 20-year-old university student named Barry Nathan pinned on his Gallup Poll button and sallied forth. He concentrated on first-floor apartments ("it's harder for them to refuse") and people waiting in self-service laundries ("God's gift to the interviewer"). Unlike chatty Mrs. Kadlec, he invariably opened his interview with the approved Gallup introduction: "I'd like your opinion on a few leading topics of the day."
Across the U.S., on the same day, some 300 other dogged interviewers were asking the same questions of 3,000 other more or Iess well-informed U.S. citizens. Should the U.S. have daylight-saving time all year round? Should Harry Truman and Joseph Stalin sit down together and talk things over? How is Harry Truman doing his job? Which Republican would you like to see President?
Needles in a Haystack. Last week, sitting in his Princeton, N.J. office, Dr. George Horace Gallup riffled contentedly through the answers. A big, friendly, teddybear of a man with a passion for facts & figures, Pollster Gallup has been finding needles in the U.S. haystack for the past twelve years. Other pollsters, like Elmo Roper and Archibald Crossley, have been doing it just as long. But George Gallup's four-a-week releases to 126 U.S. newspapers have made the "Gallup Poll" a household word and Gallup the Babe Ruth of the polling profession.