Journal Article

POLLING AS A MEANS TOWARD PRESIDENTIAL AUTONOMY: EMIL HURJA, HADLEY CANTRIL AND THE ROOSEVELT ADMINISTRATION

Robert M. Eisinger and Jeremy Brown

in International Journal of Public Opinion Research

Published on behalf of World Association for Public Opinion Research

Volume 10, issue 3, pages 237-256
Published in print January 1998 | ISSN: 0954-2892
Published online January 1998 | e-ISSN: 1471-6909 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ijpor/10.3.237
POLLING AS A MEANS TOWARD PRESIDENTIAL AUTONOMY: EMIL HURJA, HADLEY CANTRIL AND THE ROOSEVELT ADMINISTRATION

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President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's private polling served as a historic turning point in American politics. Roosevelt, faced with a constricting party apparatus and hostile relations with the media and Congress, sought to strengthen the executive branch in order to achieve a measure of independence from the Democratic Party, the media, or Congress. Polls, we argue, allowed Roosevelt and subsequent presidents to gauge public opinion without the consent of parties, the media, or Congress. Emil Hurja's polls for the DNC and Hadley Cantril's polling for Roosevelt explain this new function of the presidency. Emil Hurja disseminated poll data to the president, employing statistical techniques that began to obviate the local Democratic party as an institutional conduit between the electorate and the executive branch. Hadley Cantril was more than a poll data disseminator; he was also a media and communications advisor. Roosevelt's advisors used private polls as vehicles to advance the president's legislative and public relations agendas, and as instruments to measure the popularity of policies not yet codified and candidates not yet announced. Thanks to these polls, Roosevelt had a secret weapon that loosened the bonds previously preventing the executive branch from becoming the leadership vehicle he envisioned it to be. Of the ways in which the executive branch began to grow under Roosevelt, the assimilation of public opinion polls and the advice that accompanied them as an accepted function of the presidency signaled a historic change in the evolution of American politics.

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Subjects: Communication Studies ; Marketing ; Media and Communication ; Political Behaviour ; Social Research and Statistics

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