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After Tough 2012, Gallup Enlists Polling Expert To Investigate

The Gallup Organization, one of the polling industry's oldest brand names, is calling in an outsider to do a comprehensive review after its 2012 election polls consistently favored Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

University of Michigan professor Michael Traugott, a past president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, has been working with Gallup since December to test several of its methods. Among them: how many interviews are conducted by cell phones; how it measures likely voters and early voters; and how it assesses the impact of get-out-the-vote efforts.

Traugott's ties to Gallup date to the company's glory days. He served as a research assistant for the company's "larger than life" founder George Gallup in 1964.

In a news release, Traugott predicted results of his study would be ready by springtime. Frank Newport, Gallup's editor in chief, told NPR in a phone interview Thursday that the process is "open-ended."

"It's certainly possible we do some additional experiments," Newport said. "We will certainly make public our findings."

Some left-leaning critics argued Gallup had skewed its polls in 2012 to give preferential treatment to the Republican candidate, an allegation that Newport flatly rejected in an interview.

"That's absolutely not true," Newport said. "Gallup has a strong history of being absolutely neutral with everything that has to do with polling."

For instance, Newport said, Gallup won't do polls for political candidates or public interest groups. And he said he refuses to vote in primary elections.

The review of methods comes as Gallup's polling priorities are changing. Last month, Gallup and USA Today ended their 20-year partnership in what Newport called a "mutual decision."

"Our businesses are just going in different directions," Newport said. "It was a very amicable decision."

While best known for its polls, Gallup has devoted significant energy in recent years to performing market research for the federal government. Last year, the Justice Department joined a federal whistleblower lawsuit claiming that Gallup overcharged the U.S. government in contracts to do market research for the U.S Mint and the State Department.

Both sides reported to a judge this week that they continue to have "productive" settlement talks. Gallup has been temporarily suspended from winning new federal contracts while authorities review its practices.

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