Thursday, March 25, 2010

HWA: Pioneer in Public Opinion Polls?

HWA boasted in his Autobiography about his business surveys he made around 1914 and implys that they were the first ever public opinion polls.

In Chapter 5 of his Autobiography, entitled 'Pioneering in Public Opinion Polls' HWA relates a story of how he supposedly discovered the art of carrying out a public opinion poll.
In any event, the next distinct recollection is in Richmond, Kentucky. ... I had heard from travelling men along the way that Richmond was the "deadest" town in all America, and I thought there might be a worthwhile story in finding the reasons for this.
He then relates how he found Richmond to be full of incompetent merchants and he got into an argument with one of them and decided to conduct a survey of the town to prove to a merchant that most people were acquiring their goods from outside of town while the incompetent merchants remained blissfully ignorant of all this.

Then he writes, (Emphasis mine throughout article.)

I had no pattern to go by. To my knowledge no survey -- no sampling of public opinion -- or investigation from a representative portion of the people, according to the law of averages, had ever been made.
Actually it appears that the first political opinion poll in the USA occurred in 1824.

Here's the account from a synopsis of a Highbeam Business podcast dating from 2008.
Profile America -- Thursday, July 24th [2008]. With this being a presidential election year, Americans are inundated with the results of opinion polls on their latest preferences. The first such poll in our history appeared on this day in 1824 in the Harrisburg Pennsylvanian. According to those surveyed by the newspaper, Andrew Jackson was greatly favored over John Quincy Adams in the four-man presidential race. Though Jackson won the most popular and electoral college votes, he had a majority in neither, and the House of Representatives then elected Adams president.
Therefore HWA's statement is untrue. And so another lie of HWA is exposed. He just tries to take credit for an innovation just to make himself seem more important to his overawed followers.

He relates how he conducted this survey then presented it to the merchants. He ends this story by suggesting that Richmond has expanded partly because of his suggestions.
Possibly some of these suggestions of mine, based on the survey, had something to do with the fact that Richmond today is a growing town more than twice as large as it was then.
We must remember that stories such as this were used to persuade people that HWA was a special man and overawe converts into giving their loyalty to the false prophet of 1936, 1975 and 2005.

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