(Roughly) Daily

The Annals of Etymology, Volume 4…

As readers probably know, the basic unit of measurement of information storage/computer memory is the “byte,” which is usually– but interestingly, not always– 8 bits (that’s to say, 8 binary digits, each with a value of 1 or 0).  Less well known is the name of a half-byte: a “nibble”… or, as it’s sometimes (understandably) spelled, a “nybble.”

As we save this update, we might wish a representatively-sampled and carefully-counted Happy Birthday to George Gallup, who was born on this date in 1901.  Gallup, who had been a university professor, and an advertising research pioneer, founded the American Institute of Public Opinion in 1935.  The following year, during the Roosevelt-Landon campaign, Gallup revolutionized opinion polling.  In 1916, Literary Digest had embarked on a national survey (partly as a circulation-raising exercise) and correctly predicted Woodrow Wilson’s election as president. Mailing out millions of postcards and simply counting the returns, the Digest correctly called the following four presidential elections.

In 1936, its 2.3 million “voters” constituted a huge sample; however they were mostly affluent Americans– subscribers– who tended to have Republican sympathies.  A week before the election, Literary Digest  reported that Alf Landon was far more popular than Franklin D. Roosevelt. At the same time, Gallup conducted a much smaller survey, in which he polled a demographically representative sample– and correctly predicted Roosevelt’s landslide victory.  Literary Digest soon went bust, while professional “scientific” polling started, led by Gallup and Elmo Roper (who also surfaced with the 1936 election) to take off.

George Gallup (source)

Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 18, 2008 at 1:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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