George Gallup Retires After 50 Years As Pollster of Faith

"When I ask a question on these subjects, what I'm always trying to find out is: 'Are we doing the will of God?"
( [email protected] ) Jun 12, 2004 12:33 PM EDT

SOUTH HAMILTON, Mass. — The notable pollster, George Gallup Jr. is retiring after 50 years of surveying the world with topics such as religion, faith, and spirituality. For the past half century, the Gallup Poll has been playing a big role in Christianity as Gallup wanted his research to be used as a tool for salvation instead of just market research data.

During his speech at the commencement ceremony of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Gallup commented that the most profound purpose of polls is “to see how people are responding to God.”

"When I ask a question on these subjects, what I'm always trying to find out is: 'Are we doing the will of God?" Gallup said addressing the graduates, "The world knows a lot about Jesus, but do they know him? It is for the churches to seize this moment, to take the vague spirituality of the day and turn it into a faith that is solid and transformative."

Gallup, 74, once thought of becoming a pastor while volunteering at an Episcopal church in Galveston but later he came to realize that the enterprise founded by his father in 1935 could be served as a ministry. So immediately after graduating from Princeton University with degree in religion, he started working with his father as an assistant editor starting with writing good survey questions.

Since then his works have been recognized by the general Christian population as well as the scholars and theologians by giving direction of where today’s Christianity stands.

"The more you know about your audience, the more effective you can be in communicating the gospel," said Robert Coleman, professor of evangelism and discipleship at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Gallup "always seems to be ahead of the curve, to know what's coming in the future. ... It shows how God has gifted people in many different ways. His is a ministry as a gifted pollster."

In retirement, Gallup still plans to remain influential in the business and active in Christian service by writing books and leading seminars for small-group ministries. He will also be spending more time with his wife, Kingsley, traveling and engaging in the activities that have always interested him such as playing trumpet.

As for the Gallup Poll's future, questions on religion and spirituality are sure to continue, Gallup said, under leadership of Frank Newport, who is editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll and vice president of The George H. Gallup International Institute in Princeton, N.J.

"The inner life is the new frontier of survey research in coming years," Gallup said. "We know so little about mystical experiences, yet the religious dynamic is perhaps the most powerful of all in American culture. This is a way to unite our country on a deep level and produce a more peaceful world."

Looking over the surveys he has done, Gallup also pointed out what today’s churches need to focus on. "Churches have neglected what they should be all about, and that's discipleship," Gallup said in an interview. "Therefore, there is no transformation. People look at churches, and they don't see lives being changed. The core is getting mushy. ... Anything that doesn't lead to Jesus should be cast off."

About George H. Gallup, Jr.

George H. Gallup, Jr. has been in the field of polling for half a century, much of this time with the Gallup Poll. A major focus of his work has been in the areas of religion and spirituality, and he has directed more than 100 national surveys on these topics. In 1977, he and Dr. Miriam Murphy, a sociologist, founded the Princeton Religion Research Center to explore, through surveys, the nature and depth of religion in the U.S. and abroad. Mr. Gallup is a trustee of the John T. Templeton Foundation, the National Fatherhood Initiative, and the Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, and serves on a number of other boards. He holds seven honorary degrees in the areas of Law, Religion, Science and Letters. He is the author of numerous books, among the most recent of which are Surveying the Religious Landscape, The New American Spirituality, Growing Up Scared in America, and The Saints Among Us.

(Courtesy of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)