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Why the 1936 Literary Digest Poll Failed
The Public Opinion Quarterly
Vol. 52, No. 1 (Spring, 1988), pp. 125-133
Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Association for Public Opinion Research
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2749114
Page Count: 9
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The Literary Digest poll of 1936 holds an infamous place in the history of survey research. Despite its importance, no empirical research has been conducted to determine why the poll failed. Using data from a 1937 Gallup survey which asked about participation in the Literary Digest poll I conclude that the magazine's sample and the response were both biased and jointly produced the widly incorrect estimate of the vote. But, if all of those who were polled had responded, the magazine would have, at least, correctly predicted Roosevelt the winner. The current relevance of these findings is discussed.
The Public Opinion Quarterly © 1988 American Association for Public Opinion Research