What is it about?

Why did the Literary Digest poll fail in 1936? Was it because it selected only people who owned a car and/or a telephone, thus biasing its sample in favor of the well-to-do who would vote Republican? Or was it mainly because so many who were contacted did not participate in the poll, and those that did were mostly in favor of the Republican candidate?

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Why is it important?

This paper tries to debunk the "conventional explanation" of the 1936 poll failure and presents evidence that casts doubt on the story that has prevailed since the 1930's.


We will never know for sure what caused the poll to fail in 1936 when it had been successful many times before. But one thing seems clear: the "conventional explanation" is NOT the answer.

Dominic Lusinchi
University of California, Berkeley

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: “President” Landon and the 1936 Literary Digest Poll, Social Science History, January 2012, Cambridge University Press,
DOI: 10.1017/s014555320001035x.
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