George H. Gallup's work in developing public opinion survey techniques over the past 50 years has made his name a household word. Scandinavian countries, whose languages do not include a world for "poll," have adopted his surname—Gallup—to rectify the omission.
Gallup's career in market research began when he was a political science student at the University of Iowa in the 1920s. Between his junior and senior years, he answered an advertisement for summer employment in St. Louis and became one of the 50 students hired by the Post-Dispatch to survey each and every reader of the newspaper. A go-getter who soon realized he was continuing to get the same answers, Gallup decided there had to be a better way.
He returned to the University of Iowa and when the School of Journalism was founded in 1924, he was hired as one of its first four faculty members. In 1926, while he was enrolled as a graduate student in the University, Gallup founded the Quill and Scroll Society, and international fraternity for high school journalists that today boasts more then 11,000 chapters around the world.
By the late 1920s, Gallup was wondering if and how an election's outcome might be accurately predicted—and he hadn't forgotten that hot summer knocking on doors in St. Louis. His father-in-law, Alex Miller, had lost his bid for the governorship of Iowa, while his mother-in-law was elected Secretary of State a few years later. Gallup was convinced that the sampling technique he had developed for his doctoral dissertation ("A New Technique for Objective Methods for Measuring Reader Interests in Newspapers") could also predict the outcome of political races.
The technique worked and led Gallup to establish the American Institute of Public Opinion (the Gallup Poll) in 1935. Gallup, who earned all three of his degrees from the University of Iowa(23BA, 25MA, 28PhD), remains the world's foremost public opinion statistician today.
As the principal inventor of a surrogate for democratic decision making, Gallup was able to provide information about the will of the people. He effectively bottled the air of democracy and gave leaders a guide to leadership.
Since 1963, the University of Iowa has annually recognized accomplished alumni and friends with Distinguished Alumni Awards. Awards are presented in seven categories: Achievement, Service, Hickerson Recognition, Faculty, Staff, Recent Graduate, and Friend of the University.