From ORB International website:
From Jill Lepore article in the New Yorker titled “Politics and the New Machine: What the turn from polls to data science means for democracy“:
Gallup had always wanted to be a newspaper editor, but after graduating from the University of Iowa, in 1923, he entered a Ph.D. program in applied psychology. In 1928, in a dissertation called “An Objective Method for Determining Reader Interest in the Content of a Newspaper,” Gallup argued that “at one time the press was depended upon as the chief agency for instructing and informing the mass of people” but that newspapers no longer filled that role and instead ought to meet “a greater need for entertainment.” He therefore devised a method: he’d watch readers go through a newspaper column by column and mark up the parts they liked, so that he could advise an editor which parts of the paper to keep printing and which parts to scrap.
In 1932, when Gallup was a professor of journalism at Northwestern, his mother-in-law, Ola Babcock Miller, ran for secretary of state in Iowa. Her late husband had run for governor; her nomination was largely honorary and she was not expected to win. Gallup had read the work of Walter Lippmann. Lippmann believed that “public opinion” is a fiction created by political élites to suit and advance their interests. Gallup disagreed, and suspected that public opinion, like reader interest, could be quantified. To get a sense of his mother-in-law’s chances, Gallup began applying psychology to politics. The year of the race (she won), Gallup moved to New York, and began working for an advertising agency while also teaching at Columbia and running an outfit he called the Editors’ Research Bureau, selling his services to newspapers. Gallup thought of this work as “a new form of journalism.” But he decided that it ought to sound academic, too. In 1935, in Princeton, he founded the American Institute of Public Opinion, with funding provided by more than a hundred newspapers.
In 1936, in his syndicated column Gallup predicted that the Literary Digest would calculate that Alf Landon would defeat F.D.R. in a landslide and that the Digest would be wrong. He was right on both counts. This was only the beginning. “I had the idea of polling on every major issue,” Gallup explained. He began insisting that this work was essential to democracy. Elections come only every two years, but “we need to know the will of the people at all times.” Gallup claimed that his polls had rescued American politics from the political machine and restored it to the American pastoral, the New England town meeting. Elmo Roper, another early pollster, called the public-opinion survey “the greatest contribution to democracy since the introduction of the secret ballot.”
Gallup’s early method is known as “quota sampling.” He determined what proportion of the people are men, women, black, white, young, and old. The interviewers who conducted his surveys had to fill a quota so that the population sampled would constitute an exactly proportionate mini-electorate. But what Gallup presented as “public opinion” was the opinion of Americans who were disproportionately educated, white, and male. Nationwide, in the nineteen-thirties and forties, blacks constituted about ten per cent of the population but made up less than two per cent of Gallup’s survey respondents. Because blacks in the South were generally prevented from voting, Gallup assigned no “Negro quota” in those states. As the historian Sarah Igo has pointed out, “Instead of functioning as a tool for democracy, opinion polls were deliberately modeled upon, and compounded, democracy’s flaws.”