You have heard of the Gallup Poll. For nearly 80 years the company has been taking a sampling of individual opinions and analyzing them to report what the public is thinking and to predict trends.
I just happened across an article in the files of York County Heritage Trust and discovered York County’s role in the polling process, as reported by journalist Selden Menefee in the June 13, 1944 issue of Look magazine. The two-page article, “These Are the People Who Answer the Gallup Poll Questions,” is accompanied by a photo of 10 York County people of varied backgrounds. The heading explains that “York, Pa., is a Gallup sample area and these 10 Yorkites represent us all.” By all, Menefee means not just York County, but the whole country.
The article reads, in part:
“York is a clean, prosperous city of about 60,000 in the heart of the Pennsylvania Dutch region. It was the meeting place of the Continental Congress for six months during the Revolutionary War. Today it is a happy combination of farm market town and war industry center.
To Dr. George Gallup of the Gallup Poll, York is also a segment of the microcosm he examines regularly to determine what America is thinking. He calls it a ‘sample area.’
When you hear people ask, ‘Why haven’t I been interviewed by a Gallup representative?’ the answer is that unless they happen to live in one of Dr. Gallup’s carefully chosen sample areas–he has them in every state–they have little chance of every being interviewed.
For Dr. Gallup’s basic premise is that quality, not quantity, is the important thing; that a few thousand persons–it’s seldom more than 60,000 carefully selected to form a miniature of the adult voting public, are better as a basis of prediction than millions who are not fairly representative.”
Menefee goes on to explain the process used by trained interviewers in the several hundred sample areas to fill out the forms of answers to specific questions. “With the forms they are given strict specifications as to those to be interviewed–economic, age and sex groups, residents of city, country or village–all selected in representative proportions.” The forms were then tabulated and results sent for a fee to newspapers, which at that time formed “the sole support of Gallup Poll.”
It would be interesting to see how different or how similar the faces of York County would look today.