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Mark Nevin
October 25, 2012 : History Professor to Speak on How Public Opinion Polls Became Mainstay in American Politics


Lancaster – Many newscasts these days start off with the words, "According to the latest public opinion poll…"Ever wonder how public opinion polls became so important in American presidential elections? Well, Ohio University Assistant Professor of History Mark Nevin says all you have to do is look back to 1968.


Nevin will give a presentation called "Going to the Polls: How the 1968 Presidential Election Made Public Opinion Polls a Mainstay in American Politics" on Friday, October 26 at 6:30 p.m. in Brasee Hall Room 211. The presentation is free and open to the public.


"The origins of today's poll-rich presidential campaigns can be traced to the 1968 presidential election. While the election is best known as one of the most turbulent and divisive in our nation's history, it also marked the emergence of polling as a mainstay in American politics," said Nevin.


Nevin's presentation will be sponsored by the Friends of the Library and comes days before voters go to the polls to decide whether to reelect Democratic President Barack Obama or elect his challenger Republican Mitt Romney. Nevin said the daily opinion polling that Americans are used to seeing now leading up to elections started in 1968.The 1968 election is also the first time a Romney ran for president. Mitt Romney's father, George, was a candidate for the republican nomination.


"Never before in American history had candidates relied so heavily on polls in their run for the White House," said Nevin."In the end, polls drove President Lyndon Johnson from the race, made and unmade the candidacy of George Romney, fatally weakened Nelson Rockefeller's bid to topple frontrunner Richard Nixon at the Republican National Convention and almost grounded Hubert Humphrey's campaign for the presidency before it even got off the ground." 


Nevin has a PhD in American History from the University of Virginia and an MA in Liberal Arts from St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland.He is currently working on a book manuscript about the Nixon presidency and public opinion polling.