The Crossleys

Pioneers in the Field of Public Opinion Research

Helen Crossley

Helen Crossley

Helen Crossley received her master's degree in the social sciences from the University of Denver in 1948. She focused her studies and wrote her thesis on public opinion research, a field in which she has made a significant impact throughout her years of public service and dedication.

Helen Crossley was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1922 to parents Dorothy and Archibald Crossley, himself a pioneer in the field of public opinion and survey research. At age 9, Helen embarked on her first survey project of counting radio listeners for her father's firm, Crossley Inc.

Helen's devotion to public opinion research remained prominent throughout her life. In 1947, she attended a conference in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where she became a founding member of two of the most prestigious professional associations for public opinion research: the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR). She remained an active member of both organizations throughout her life, serving as the first female president of WAPOR in 1961 and as Secretary-Treasurer of AAPOR in 1973 and 1975. After retirement, Helen continued her involvement by serving as WAPOR's official historian.

Much of Helen's career was spent as a dedicated public servant. After graduating from Radcliffe College in 1942, she aided in the war effort by moving to Washington D.C. to work for the Office of War Information and War Food Administration. In 1950, Helen continued her career in public service through the Armed Forces Information and Education Division in the Department of Defense in Germany, where she eventually was promoted to chief of research. In 1955, Helen transferred to the United States Information Agency (USIA), where she received an official citation from the Korean Ministry of Information for helping establish survey research in Korea. After a stint in the private sector beginning in 1963, which included co-authoring the book, "American Drinking Standards and Practices," based on survey research that she and colleagues conducted, Helen returned to USIA in 1979.

After Helen retired from USIA in 1992, she assisted in expanding public knowledge of survey research by providing USIA data to the University of Connecticut's Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. In 2008, Helen received the Roper Center's Distinguished Service Award for "dedicated service to conducting and archiving international survey research."

In keeping with her legacy of expanding public knowledge of survey research, Helen founded the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver in 2012. Through this center, Helen and Archibald Crossley's lifelong commitments to the field of public opinion research continue.

  • Career Timeline
    • 1922: Born in Germantown, Pennsylvania
      Parents Archibald Maddock Crossley and Dorothy Fox Crossley
    • 1923: Parents built house in Princeton, New Jersey
    • 1931: Counted radio listeners for father's firm Crossley Ratings (9 years old)
    • 1936: Father conducts survey for Hearst Newspapers. Predicts Roosevelt will win presidential election, which launches national reputation of survey research
    • 1937: Travels to England with high school during junior year, marking first trip abroad
    • 1942: Graduation from Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA
      Moves to Washington, D.C. to work in Office of War Information and War Food Administration
    • 1945: Works in public opinion research for Crossley, Inc., in New York. Lives in Greenwich Village
    • 1947– '48: Earns master's degree in social science from University of Denver. Writes thesis on public opinion research. Her father is an advocate for new professional associations. Both involved in founding American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) at conference in Williamston, MA
    • 1950: Begins work for Armed Forces Information and Education Division in Department of Defense in Germany, becoming chief of research branch.
    • 1955: Transfers to United States Information Agency (USIA), Washington, D.C. Established international surveys in Europe, Asia and Latin America.
    • 1961–'62: Serves as first female president of WAPOR
    • 1963: Returns to Princeton, NJ, and works in private sector including international work in Korea
    • 1969: Co-authors (with father) analysis of 1968 election in Public Opinion Quarterly
    • 1970: Conducts American Drinking Practices studies
    • 1979: Returns to USIA
    • 1992: Retires from USIA after 32 years of government service
      Continues to participate in WAPOR and AAPOR. Sends USIA surveys to Roper Center
    • 2008: Receives the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research Distinguished Service Award
    • 2012: Establishes the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver
Helen has always retained a fascination with research methodology, and also with the potential of survey research to make new discoveries about humankind and to bring about positive change in societies around the world. George Gallup Jr.

Archibald Crossley

Few names have had as great an impact on the world of public opinion research as Archibald Crossley's. Despite little formal training, Archibald helped advance the field into the highly utilized resource it is today, and he is widely considered one of the fathers of modern public opinion research. Throughout the course of his career, Archibald Crossley helped develop polling techniques used by public opinion pollsters and advocated tirelessly for standards and ethics within the discipline.

Market Research Leads to Radio Survey Report

Archibald Crossley started in opinion research in December 1918 upon leaving Princeton University after only one year. Hoping to pursue a career in copywriting, he was offered a job creating and managing a research department at J.H. Cross Company, a mid-sized advertising firm in Philadelphia. Archibald knew very little about research, but neither did Mr. Cross. Archibald set about touring leading advertising firms in New York City in order to better understand his new industry. He was so successful in setting up the research department at J.H. Cross that four years later he received an offer from the staff at Literary Digest to serve as their director of research.

In 1926, Archibald left the Literary Digest to establish his own commercial research firm, Crossley Inc. The company quickly established itself as a leader in radio broadcast market research. At the time, radio was a new form of mass communication. Crossley Inc. conducted research to determine the size of radio audiences. However, the firm's most notable contribution at the time was the monthly Crossley Radio Survey reports in the firm conducted telephone interviews to find out what shows people listened to and which interested them most. In 1930, Crossley Inc. received a Harvard University award for the year's most outstanding example of commercial research.

Predicting the 1936 Presidential Election

Around this time social scientists began adopting many of the techniques developed by market research firms, including Crossley Inc., and applying them to gauge public views regarding issues related to governance. In the lead-up to the 1936 presidential election, Hearst Publications hired Crossley and his associates to conduct polls regarding the contest between incumbent President Roosevelt and Albert Landon. Crossley's former employer, the Literary Digest, was the leading publication for political polls at the time. Using a straw poll method that involved providing postcards that readers could send in, the Literary Digest correctly predicted the three presidential elections between 1920 and 1932. Prior to the '36 election, the Digest predicted that Landon would win 32 states and carry 370 of the 531 electoral votes.

Crossley, on the other hand, utilized a quota sampling technique that allowed him to quickly measure public opinion in comparatively short intervals. Along with contemporary pollsters Elmo Roper and George Gallup, Crossley predicted that Roosevelt would win—and win big. The final result of the 1936 election was Roosevelt winning all but eight electoral votes; it was one of the biggest landslide victories in U.S. presidential election history. Having correctly predicted the election, the "Trio of '36" as they came to be known, stimulated interest in using public opinion as a tool to address genuine social concerns. Crossley stated:

Scientific polling makes it possible within two or three days at moderate expense for the entire nation to work hand in hand with its legislative representatives on laws that affect our daily lives. Here is the long-sought key to Government by the People.

Establishment of the AAPOR and Industry Standards

Believing that the market would not support three separate public polls, Crossley largely continued to work in the commercial market research sector, yet he continued to play an active role in the field of public opinion, including running a presidential poll every four years. In 1944, Crossley, along with Roper and Gallup, was invited to join the board of editors of Public Opinion Quarterly in an effort to bring the academic and commercial wings of survey research together in three primary areas: publication, technical methods and professional association. These efforts ultimately culminated in the establishment of the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) in 1947, for which Crossley, Roper and Gallup served on the "nucleus committee" to help determine minimum data disclosure in publishing polls.

The efforts of the pollsters were nearly derailed in 1948 when Crossley, Roper and Gallup all incorrectly predicted a Thomas Dewey victory over incumbent President Truman. In the aftermath, Crossley and other AAPOR colleagues met in Iowa City to discuss what went wrong and how they could improve their techniques. Ultimately, they decided that polling needed to adopt probability sampling over quota sampling as the best practice.

Crossley remained active in AAPOR and served as president of the association in 1952. Two years later Crossley Inc. merged with the marketing research firm Steward, Dougall & Associates to form Crossley Surveys. While primarily focused on market research, which Crossley believed to be an essential element of the free market, Crossley was still active in furthering the science of survey research.

In 1962, Crossley retired, yet still devoted his efforts towards advancing the field of public opinion research, even taking on a few political polling jobs from time to time. In 1967 supporters of President Lyndon Johnson commissioned Crossley to conduct a confidential poll in selected states across the country, including Stratford County, New Hampshire, where Johnson was still popular. With his ratings in national polls dropping as the situation in Vietnam worsened, President Johnson leaked the results of the New Hampshire county poll to the press. The results in Stratford County were not indicative of the findings of the overall poll, thus the leak events were misleading. In response, Crossley released the rest of the poll's results to the press and made a public corrective statement. Ultimately AAPOR officially mandated that all of its members go public if their surveys are misrepresented.

Expanding Internationally

Archibald Crossley was honored in 1970 with a lifetime achievement award from AAPOR as he continued his efforts to advance the field of public opinion research. In his later years, he focused his work on how public opinion could help reduce international tensions—a long, sought-after ideal. His interest in this area led him to conduct workshops at the International Peace Academy, and his research contributed to Praeger and Davidson's book, Resolving Nationality Conflicts: The Role of Public Opinion Research.

Archibald Crossley passed away on May 1, 1985, after making an enormous impact in his field. A pioneer in both market and public opinion research, Crossley devoted his life to improving the world's understanding of public preferences and to developing the best practices in determining those preferences. With the founding of the Crossley Center in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, Archibald Crossley's legacy of dedication to the field of public opinion research lives on.

  • Career Timeline
    • 1896: Born in Fieldsboro, New Jersey
    • 1917: Attended Princeton University. Returned and graduated in 1950.
    • 1918: Left Princeton to pursue work as a copywriter; hired by J.H. Cross Company to start a research department.
    • 1922: Hired by Literary Digest as Director of Research.
    • 1926: Established own market research company, Crossley Inc., with a commercial research emphasis. Became known for Crossley Political Polls and Cooperative Analysis of Broadcasting (CAB) — the latter of which measured radio broadcast shows' popularity via telephone interviews.
    • 1930: Crossley Inc./CAB recognized with Harvard award for year's most outstanding example of commercial research.
    • 1936: George Gallup, Elmo Roper and Crossley each conducted media-sponsored newspaper polling during the 1936 presidential election. Crossley worked with Hearst newspapers. Each correctly predicted Roosevelt's win, while Literary Digest's poll, the most famous of the time, had Alfred Landon winning with 370 of the possible 531 votes in the Electoral College. The three became known as the "Trio of '36."
    • 1944: Gallup, Roper and Crossley, called the Trio of '36 after the 1936 presidential election, invited to join the Public Opinion Quarterly board in a pre-AAPOR effort to bring together academic and commercial wings of survey research.
    • 1946: Served on Committee for the Measurement of Opinion, Attitudes. Most of committees' work was establishing best practices for survey research.
    • 1947: Crossley, with colleagues, started American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR); examined survey methodology and developed professional standards for published polls. AAPOR formed as consortium of commercial, academic, government and other research organizations.
    • Crossley chaired committee on practice for minimum disclosure of public polls — criteria for including size of sample, dates conducted and other relevant information. Crossley, along with Roper and Gallup, known as the "Nucleus Committee."
    • 1948: Dewey "victory"; Gallup, Crossley and Roper polls missed 1948 presidential winner, Harry Truman.
    • 1949: Crossley joined with colleagues to recommend greater integration between academics and pollsters. Near unanimous agreement to move away from quota sampling and adopt probability sampling techniques.
    • 1952: Assumed role as president of AAPOR.
    • 1954: Merged with marketing research firm Steward, Dougall & Associates to form Crossley Survey; experts on psychology of questionnaire construction and intensity of response. Crossley remained heavily involved in commercial research, believing it was essential to free market and consumer sovereignty, yet still conducted polls on public policy and political issues.
    • 1962: Crossley retired from Crossley Inc., but did not stop working.
    • 1967: Democratic National Committee leaked Crossley poll: Crossley reacted by insisting all data be released, not just selected parts. AAPOR adopted standards for reporting public opinion polls.
    • 1968: National Committee on Published Polls established; Crossley named chairmen and executive secretary. (Reorganized and renamed National Council on Public Polls in 1969.) Crossley advocated for ethical and professional rules governing public polls.
    • 1969: An article, "Polling in 1968," by Archibald Crossley and his daughter, Helen Crossley, published in Public Opinion Quarterly.
    • 1970: Received AAPOR Award for lifetime achievement.
    • 1978: Organized conferences and symposium on reducing international tension. Published report, "Resolving Nationality Conflicts" (Praeger, 1980).
    • 1980: Conducted workshops for International Peace Academy.
    • 1985: Died at home in Princeton, N.J. at 88 years old.