Gallup, Jr. – A Hero of Mine
Everyone knows the name
George Gallup, but few actually knew the man himself.
One of the great privileges
of my life is that he has been a personal hero of mine for four
decades. George Gallup Jr., who died last week at age 81, was
the son of the founder of polling. However, he was first a
missionary on an Indian reservation and seriously considered
becoming an Episcopal priest before joining the family business.
He was the most deeply
committed Christian I have ever known, and lived his faith in an
In 1972-3 I ran a
project that involved producing five TV programs which were
broadcast on New York area TV stations which framed public
policy choices for debate on such issues as transportation,
housing and poverty. It also involved articles on the same
choices in daily newspapers, and “ballots” for citizen response.
I called the Gallup Poll
to see if it would be interested in conducting scientific polls
before and after these “Television Town Meetings” to measure any
changes in public opinion. To my amazement, George Gallup Jr.
responded personally. He could not have been more gracious or
encouraging. His polling did report a significant shift of
opinion, which helped persuade government to adopt some reforms
which had garnered public support.
Two characteristics of
George were quite striking. First, he was warm and always
available. Secondly, he revered his father. He insisted on
calling himself George Gallup, Jr., even decades after his
father’s death. He was not simply modest, but genuinely humble.
A few years later, I
invited him and his beloved wife, Kinny, to come to our home at
that time in Stamford, Conn., to speak in our church at a “Faith
Renewal Weekend.” While he was speaking, he told a story which
prompted Kinny to stand up in the congregation, in the middle of
his talk and correct him, gently, saying, “George, it didn’t
happen that way!” She retold the story with humor and warmth.
He was grinning from ear to ear, delighted with her charm.
After I started this
column in 1981, I mailed it to him each week. Some years later
he stunned me by saying, “I have saved all of your columns, and
I read them to my children,” who were then adults! He made me
glow and feel good all over. Even now, I am amazed that the
famous George Gallup, who conducted polls on hundreds of issues
and written a score of books, was so kind to a younger friend.
In 1993 I wrote my first
book, “Marriage Savers: Helping Your Friends and Family Avoid
Divorce.” I was struck by a paradox. According to George’s
Gallup Polls, America is the most religious modern nation, with
high percentages who are church members and attendees. Yet we
also had the highest divorce rate in the world.
On the other hand, some churches
had pioneered answers to help couples at different
stages of marriage to be successful. My
book was about those reforms, and how they might be combined in
what I called a Community Marriage Policy. I had persuaded the
clergy of a dozen cities to take this step, and it was reducing
However, the reforms and
my work were unknown. Therefore, I asked George if he would
write the book’s Foreword, which would help me sell it. That
was a huge imposition, requiring his reading of 300+ pages and
then finding the time to write it. It is difficult to think of
any people as famous over so many decades as George Gallup, yet
he readily agreed to do so.
George wrote these
opening eloquent words for the Foreword:
“If a disease were to
afflict the majority of a populace, spreading pain and
dysfunction throughout all age groups, we would be frantically
searching for reasons and solutions. Yet this particular
scourge has become so endemic that it is virtually ignored.
“The scourge is divorce,
an oddly neglected topic in a nation that has the worst record
of broken marriages in the entire world.”
After creating a small
non-profit, Marriage Savers, to work full-time in this ministry,
I asked George to speak at a fund-raising dinner. He readily
agreed, demonstrating again that he had a servant’s heart.
He also inspired George
Barna to create a religious polling firm that competed at times
with Gallup. Yet Gallup was not threatened, but encouraging..
“I was overwhelmed by his kindness,” Barna recalls.
Barna concludes, as do I, that
George Gallup “did possess the heart of Christ that made him a
treasure in the kingdom and a joy to those who knew him.”