Roper, Elmo, 1900-1971

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Elmo Roper (1900-1971) was a pioneer in the fields of market research and public opinion polling.

From the description of Elmo Roper papers, 1900-1972. (University of Connecticut). WorldCat record id: 52096773

Elmo Roper ( 1900-1971 ) was a pioneer in the fields of market research and public opinion polling. Born in Nebraska on 31 July 1900, he operated a jewelry store with his brother in Iowa in the 1920s. While not successful, the experience taught him the value of understanding what his customers wanted. He did his first customer research while employed by the Traub Company in the early 1930s, trying to find out why their products were not selling better, and in 1933 he co-founded one of the first market research firms, Cherington, Wood, and Roper .

Roper was director of the Fortune Survey, the first national poll based on scientific sampling techniques, from 1935 until 1950, and his correct prediction of the 1936 Franklin Roosevelt landslide over Alf Landon helped establish scientific polling as a viable industry. This was demonstrated in 1940 when FDR asked his organization and George Gallup 's to do polling on the proposed Lend-Lease deal to send destroyers to England in order to gauge public support before going ahead.

During World War II, Roper was hired by "Wild Bill" Donovan to be deputy director of the Office of Strategic Services, in charge of finding the best men to staff the new intelligence agency. Roper helped convince George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower of the importance of opinion research in the armed forces, overcoming opposition from others, and helped Donovan go outside channels to ensure that security at American industrial plants was sufficiently strong. He then became a "dollar-a-year" man for the Office of War Information, the Office of Production Management, and the Army and the Navy. His company also did work for the government, surveying the general public in order to set wartime production goals as well as prioritize the transition back to a peacetime economy.

Following the 1948 election, when the polls' spectacular failure to predict Harry Truman 's comeback victory over Thomas Dewey caused the public opinion industry's greatest crisis, Roper led the public and private defense of polling, withstanding the scorn of comedians and politicians to call for a measured look at what had gone wrong and why. Behind the scenes his reassurance of his commercial clients (and the strength of his reputation) helped prevent market research from being damaged too greatly by the failure of the polls. While it would take some time for public confidence to return, polling managed to survive in part because of Roper's calls for calm and reason, and his frank admission of errors where they had occurred.

Roper was an editor-at-large for the Saturday Review, a founding member of the Connecticut Civil Rights Commission, a syndicated newspaper and radio columnist, and in his later years would be a perennial election and convention analyst on network television. A tireless activist for liberal causes, he was head of the fundraising arm of the Urban League right after the war, and served on the boards of the Fund for the Republic, and more than two dozen other groups and corporations from Planned Parenthood and the Children's Television Workshop to Tiffany's and Spiegel .

Roper was especially interested in the concept of Atlantic Union, which advocated greater political, economic, and military unity among the United States and western Europe to counterbalance the threat from the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact nations. He was a member of the US Citizen's Commission on NATO, and an important delegate to a convention in Paris that discussed the idea of Atlantic Union in 1962. Although he never finished college, Roper was the recipient of honorary degrees from Williams College, the University of Louisville, and the University of Minnesota, and was in constant demand as a speaker for the last thirty years of his life.

In 1946 Roper founded the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Williams College, the first social science data archives. To establish the basis for the Center's collection, Roper convinced fellow pioneers Gallup and Archibald Crossley to send their data to the Center as well, with the idea of assembling the kind of breadth and depth of data necessary for scholars and policymakers to make informed and responsible use of public opinion information. Now located at the University of Connecticut, the Roper Center is the world's largest repository of polling data, with collections spanning the globe and dating back to the 1930s.

Roper married Dorothy Shaw in the 1920s, and they had two sons, Burns and James. Burns was also an influential member of the opinion research community, succeeded his father as head of Roper Research Associates following Elmo's retirement. Roper died in 1971 in Redding, CT .

From the guide to the Elmo Roper Papers., 1909-1972, (Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Hardman, J. B. S. (Jacob Benjamin Salutsky), 1882-1968. Papers, 1908-1970. Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Schmidt, Adolph William. Collection of Adolph Willimam Schmidt, 1957-1965. University of Pittsburgh
referencedIn J. R. Parten Papers 90-208; 90-285; 97-044; 98-290; 98-325; 2009-317; 2011-106., 1890-1899, 1913-1992, 2009 Dolph Briscoe Center for American History
referencedIn Fund for the Republic. Fund for the Republic archives, 1928-1964 (bulk 1952-1961). Princeton University Library
creatorOf Elmo Roper Papers., 1909-1972 Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
referencedIn The Nation, records, 1879-1974 (inclusive), 1920-1955 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Thomas J. Dodd Papers, undated, 1919-1971. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
referencedIn Learned Hand papers Harvard Law School Library Langdell Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
referencedIn Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions Collection, 1950-1991, 1961-1987 University of California, Santa Barbara. Davidson Library. Department of Special Collections.
referencedIn Papers of Samuel Andrew Stouffer Harvard University Archives.
referencedIn Ford, J. mss., 1906-1976 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
creatorOf Roper, Elmo, 1900-1971. Correspondence to Van Wyck Brooks, 1959. University of Pennsylvania Library
referencedIn Burlingame Family Papers, 1856-1967 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
creatorOf Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions. Records, 1952-1991. University of California, Santa Barbara, UCSB Library
referencedIn Moore, Hugh, 1887-1972. Hugh Moore Fund collection, 1922-1972 (bulk 1939-1970). Princeton University Library
referencedIn Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions Collection, Series 12: Audio-Visual, ca. 1956-1987 University of California, Santa Barbara. Davidson Library. Department of Special Collections.
creatorOf Roper, Elmo, 1900-1971. Elmo Roper papers, 1900-1972. University of Connecticut, Homer Babbidge Library
referencedIn Clarence K. Streit Papers, 1838-1990, (bulk 1939-1986) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn New York Times Company records. Arthur Hays Sulzberger papers, 1823-1999 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Atlantic Union Committee Records, 1940-1968, (bulk 1949-1952) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Stuart Chase Papers, 1907-1978, (bulk 1931-1955) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Fund for the Republic Records, 1928-1964, 1952-1961 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections.Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. Public Policy Papers.
referencedIn Russell Wheeler Davenport Papers, 1899-1980, (bulk 1930-1954) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Atlantic Union Committee. Records, 1940-1968. Library of Congress
referencedIn J. B. S. (Jacob Benjamin Salutsky) Hardman Papers, 1908-1970 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
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associatedWith Metopolitan Life Insurance COmpany corporateBody
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correspondedWith Moore, Hugh, 1887-1972. person
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associatedWith National Institute of Animal Agriculture corporateBody
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correspondedWith National Planning Association corporateBody
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associatedWith National Sales Executives corporateBody
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correspondedWith Nation (New York, N.Y. : 1865). corporateBody
correspondedWith NATO corporateBody
correspondedWith NBC corporateBody
associatedWith New England Gas Assocation corporateBody
associatedWith New Jersey League pf Women Voters corporateBody
associatedWith New School for Social Research corporateBody
associatedWith New York Baord of Trade corporateBody
associatedWith New York Chamber of Commerce corporateBody
associatedWith New York Rotary Club corporateBody
associatedWith New York Times Company corporateBody
associatedWith New York Young Democrats Club corporateBody
correspondedWith Nylock Corporation corporateBody
associatedWith Oberlin COllege corporateBody
associatedWith Office Equipment Manufacturers Institute corporateBody
correspondedWith Office of Price Administration corporateBody
correspondedWith Office of Strategic Services corporateBody
correspondedWith Oxford University Press corporateBody
associatedWith Parten, J. R. (Jubal Richard) person
associatedWith Pelham Memorial High School corporateBody
correspondedWith Phillip Morris corporateBody
correspondedWith Pineapple Growers' Association of Hawaii corporateBody
correspondedWith Population Crisis Committee corporateBody
correspondedWith Pratt, Wallace E. person
associatedWith Prentice-Hall, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Purdue University corporateBody
associatedWith Queens College corporateBody
correspondedWith Ratner, Victor M. person
correspondedWith Regional Plan Association corporateBody
correspondedWith Republic Aviation corporateBody
associatedWith Richard Nixon person
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correspondedWith Roper Brothers Jewelry Store corporateBody
correspondedWith Roper Center corporateBody
associatedWith Roper Research Associates. corporateBody
correspondedWith Rothenberg, Aaron M. person
associatedWith Sales Executive Club of New York corporateBody
associatedWith Sales Executives Club corporateBody
correspondedWith San Francisco Bay Area Council corporateBody
correspondedWith Schmidt, Adolph William. person
associatedWith School of Journalism, Columbia University corporateBody
correspondedWith S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Senate Foreign Relations Committee corporateBody
associatedWith Sons of the Revolution corporateBody
associatedWith Southeast Electrical Exchange corporateBody
associatedWith Spiegel Company corporateBody
correspondedWith Spiegel, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Spiegel Ten Year Club corporateBody
correspondedWith Standard Oil corporateBody
correspondedWith Standard Oil Company corporateBody
associatedWith Standard Oil of New Jersey corporateBody
correspondedWith Steichen, Edward person
associatedWith Stouffer, Samuel Andrew, 1900-1960. person
associatedWith Streit, Clarence K. (Clarence Kirshman), 1896-1986. person
associatedWith Student Federalists corporateBody
associatedWith Sugar Foundation corporateBody
associatedWith Swift and Company corporateBody
associatedWith Tea Association corporateBody
associatedWith Texas Wesleyan College corporateBody
associatedWith Tex McCrary person
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associatedWith United States Information Agency corporateBody
correspondedWith University of Bridgeport corporateBody
associatedWith University of Louisville corporateBody
associatedWith University of Minnesota corporateBody
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associatedWith Young Men's Business Club corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
Market surveys
Public opinion
Public opinion
Public opinion polls
Public opinion polls
Public opinion analysts


Birth 1900-07-31

Death 1971-04-30



Ark ID: w6j67m2v

SNAC ID: 21122360