Every president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has relied in some way on polls to gauge the thinking of the electorate. Major U.S. media outlets not only report on polls but also frequently commission their own.

But, many critics claim that polling is dangerously imprecise, that polling can distort the work of press and politicians, and that polls pose a mortal threat to the democratic process itself.

Now Frank Newport, editor in chief of The Gallup Poll and one of the nation's most experienced pollsters, shows how each of these criticisms is unfounded. In his new book, Polling Matters, Newport tells the skeptics why polls matter … and explains to the rest of us exactly how polling works.

Newport shows that polling is an invaluable source of information -- one that gives us a unique and consistently accurate window into issues as diverse as voting preferences, gender differences, race relations, child-rearing, consumer habits, healthcare, and education. Newport explains that public opinion often provides a positive, stable influence compared to the shifting tide of daily news coverage and the opinions of politicians and pundits.

Proving that polls are not to be feared but to be used wisely, Polling Matters shows us how:

  • polling can scientifically and accurately generalize about millions by examining the preferences of a random few
  • pollsters can satisfy the media's growing appetite for polls without distorting or oversimplifying the data
  • politicians can use polling results to tailor their agendas ... to reflect genuine public opinion
  • poll analysts can maximize the value of polling results to journalists, politicians, and the public
  • polls actually collect the wisdom of the people more efficiently than the vote does

The people's voice is almost always on target. It forms what Dr. George Gallup -- the founder of the famous poll that bears his name -- proclaimed more than 60 years ago as the "true pulse of democracy." Fascinating, informative, and provocative, Polling Matters demonstrates how polls lie at the vital heart of a well-functioning and free society.