Who are you?
Andrew Kohut is the president of the Pew Research Center. He also acts as director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press (formerly the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press) and the Pew Global Attitudes Project. He was President of The Gallup Organization from 1979 to 1989. In 1989, he founded Princeton Survey Research Associates, an attitude and opinion research firm specializing in media, politics, and public policy studies. He served as founding director of surveys for the Times Mirror Center 1990-1992, and was named its Director in 1993. He is a past president of American Association of Public Opinion Research and the National Council on Public Polls. In 2005, he received the American Association of Public Opinion Research's highest honor, the Award for Exceptionally Distinguished Achievement. He is a frequent press commentator on the meaning and interpretation of opinion poll results and the co-author of four books, including, mostly recently, America Against the World (Times Books). He received an A.B. degree from Seton Hall University in 1964 and studied graduate sociology at Rutgers, the State University, from 1964 to 1966.
Question: Who are you?
Andrew Kohut: It’s Andrew Kohut.
Question: Where are you from and how has that shaped you?
Andrew Kohut: I’m from New Jersey – from Northern New Jersey. I was born in Newark. I was raised in Bergen County. That’s where I went to college. That’s where I went to graduate school. I would get a real dose of reality check in Northern New Jersey, so I guess that was quite helpful. I don’t know. I mean I think that New Jersey and Bergen County in particular in the 1950s and early ‘60s was very much . . . very typical of post-war America when all was stable and . .. and . . . . and the issues were only about whether the Yankees would win a . . . yet another World Series. And you know everything seemed very stable and kind of boring. Conformity was the big issue. Have Americans turned conformist? “The Organization Man” was one of the big books . . .one of the first big books . . . big . . . big think books, so to speak, that I read. And “The Hidden Persuaders” and Vance Packard and all of this concern about corporate power, and concern about . . . about the . . . the fact that young people and society at large wasn’t very rebellious and very imaginative, perhaps. And 1950s Bergen County was pretty typical of a place that . . . a part of the world that was booming after the Second World War with veterans starting their families and raising their families. And I . . . I was raised in a blue collar environment. And I learned about hard work, and I learned to . . . It was always emphasized that a good education and . . . and trying to achieve things was the way to lead your life.
Question: What did you think you'd be doing professionally when you were growing up?
Andrew Kohut: I had no idea. I went to college, you know, because I was . . . thought . . . I was told that that was the right thing to do. I sort of ambled through that. I was not very interested in it. I was not a very good student. And then I got interested in . . . In about my third or fourth year, I got interested in sociology. And I started reading . . . It was more social psychology that interested me. I started reading about the way you could take measurements and capture attitudes about . . . and personality types and people’s dispositions. And there was a famous psychological battery that intrigued me. It was called the Adorno Scale. And what it did was it measured people’s predisposition to fascism, and how authoritarian they were, and how biased and bigoted they were. It was used . . . developed during the war in some way to calibrate the Nazi way of thinking. And I read this, and there were all of these questions. And I said, “My god, you can actually measure stuff like this.” And it intrigued me. And so then I became a little bit interested in . . . in pursuing . . . pursuing sociology. And I went to graduate school and I met some really great professors who . . . I was mostly interested in social methodology. The idea of being able to measure opinions, and attitudes, and quantitatively examine social issues really caught my attention. And that was what got me going doing what I do.
Recorded on: 9/14/07
In college Kohut was drawn to the idea that attitudes, opinions, and personality types could be measured.
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