Presidential election polling book author presents Sept. 9 as part of LIT Talks series

The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, in partnership with the Iowa City Public Library, will host author W. Joseph Campbell on Sept. 9, when he will discuss his new book, Lost in a Gallup: Polling Failure in U.S. Presidential Elections. Campbell’s talk will be online at 7 p.m. Visit https://www.crowdcast.io/e/littalks-w–joseph  to register for this free event, or stream live on the ICPL Facebook page.

Campbell’s talk is part of the LIT Talks series, a series of occasional events designed to bring the authors of books about politics and social engagement to the library to discuss the ideas in those books. For this event, Campbell will visit virtually. Attendees will be able to ask questions and interact during the event.

Campbell, an American writer, historian, media critic, and blogger, as well as professor at American University’s School of Communication’s Communication Studies program, looks at the long history of polling and its perils in this new book.

Donald Trump’s unexpected victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election brought sweeping criticism of election polls and poll-based statistical forecasts, which had signaled that Hillary Clinton would win the White House. Surprise ran deep in 2016, but it was not unprecedented. In Lost in a Gallup, Campbell examines in lively and engaging fashion the history of polling flops, epic upsets, unforeseen landslides, and exit poll fiascoes in American presidential elections. Drawing on archival collections and contemporaneous sources, W. Joseph Campbell presents insights on notable pollsters of the past, including University of Iowa alumnus George Gallup, as well as Elmo Roper, Archibald Crossley, Warren Mitofsky, and Louis Harris.

The story is one of media failure, too, as journalists invariably take their lead from polls in crafting campaign narratives. Lost in a Gallup describes how numerous prominent journalists—including Edward R. Murrow, Jimmy Breslin, Mike Royko, Christopher Hitchens, and Haynes Johnson—were outspoken poll-bashers and critics. In assessing polling’s messy, uneven, and controversial past, Campbell emphasizes that although election polls are not always wrong, their inherent drawbacks invite skepticism and wariness. Readers will come away better prepared to weigh the efficacy and value of pre-election polls in presidential races, the most important of all American elections.

Previous LIT Talks include presidential candidate and former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg discussing his book, Shortest Way Home, Drake University Professor Jennifer Harvey discussing her book, Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America, and New York Times editorial board member Jesse Wegman talking about his book, Let the People Pick the President: The Case for Abolishing the Electoral College.

Prairie Lights will have copies of the book available. Visit www.prairielightsbooks.com or call (319) 337-2681 to order. A digital edition will be available through icpl.overdrive.com with a library card.