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MinM Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Sep-28-12 11:36 AM
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8. 1960 Presidential Election
In 1959 John F. Kennedy recruited Harris to do all his polling for the forthcoming presidential campaign. At the time George Gallup dominated this industry but was believed to be a strong Republican Party supporter. (In fact it later emerged he had been fiddling the results in order to get Republicans elected). Harris was a Democrat and was on record as saying: "For this poll-taker's part, he will never undertake to work for any candidate he believes will set back human progress."

Kennedy paid Harris $400,000 for his surveys, much more than a political pollster had ever received before. Harris argued in his autobiography, The Anguish of Change (1973): "I don't think any poll-taker before or since has sat on a strategy committee. Joe Kennedy, Bobby and Jack Kennedy, and I - we were the inner strategy committee. So I was part of and privy to the whole bloody campaign. The only people who got the polls were Jack and Bobby, nobody else." Elmo Roper attacked those "so-called public opinion researchers," who allow their polls to be exploited "rather openly for propaganda purposes."

After his victory in the 1960 Presidential Election, Kennedy apparently told Harris that "maybe next to me you've got more power than anybody else in this country." Harris agreed and he told the New York Times: "When polls figure largely in the outcome of a major victory, such as... President Kennedy's in Virginia in May, 1960, the poll-taker becomes a kind of political miracle worker." One former Kennedy aide commented: "Face it, politicians have big egos, bigger than anybody's. Harris was smart. He'd come in with these polls that showed that everybody adored Kennedy, and Kennedy ate it up." Ted Sorensen disagreed with this assessment and claimed that Kennedy "felt that a pollster's desire to please a client and influence strategy sometimes unintentionally coloured his analysis."

Michael Wheeler, the author of Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: The Manipulation of Public Opinion in America (2007), has pointed out: "During the campaign he would sometimes engage in flights of fancy about his future after the election... some people close to Harris at the time say he would wistfully imagine himself as director of the CIA one day and secretary of commerce the next... Having supposedly masterminded a presidential campaign, Harris became the number one political pollster. Democrats who wanted to win came to him, and they paid top dollar for what they got."
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