For better and for worse, polls have been a part of our lives for quite some time now. Recently perusing a New York Times "Living History" book, I came across this headline, from November 28, 1939:
Hitler is 'Greatest' in Princeton Poll: Freshmen Put Einstein Second and Chamberlain Third
Keep in mind, World War II had been raging for almost three months when the results were published. So make what you will of it, take away any lessons you want, but herewith is the entire New York Times item:
PRINCETON, N.J., Nov. 27--Princeton's freshmen again have chosen Adolf Hitler as "the greatest living person" in the annual poll of their class conducted by The Daily Princetonian. Ninety-three votes were given to the German Chancellor, as compared with twenty-seven to Albert Einstein in second position and fifteen to Neville Chamberlain in third.
In answer to a criticism, which suggested the use of the word "important" rather than "great" for the poll, The Nassau Daily pointed out editorially that the dictionary defines "great" as "eminent or distinguished by rank, power or moral character."
The Princeton yearlings gave most votes to President Roosevelt as the greatest living American, with Charles Evans Hughes and Herbert Hoover in second and third positions, respectively. President Roosevelt ranked fifth, behind Mahatma Gandhi, as "the greatest living person."
A third term for the President, however, was opposed by 368 votes, while only sixty favored it. Most believed he would run but would not be re-elected.
Only 120 Nassau first-year men said they would fight overseas, but 413 would defend this country against invasion. The present war is considered "imperialistic" by 199, "ideological" by only fifty-nine.
The class preferred a Phi Beta Kappa key to a varsity letter in athletics, and thought the chairmanship of the Daily Princetonian was the most desirable campus position.
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