Harry Truman seemed poised to lose the 1948 presidential election to Governor Thomas Dewey (R-NY).
Three major polls, including Gallup – the gold standard at the time – predicted a landslide Dewey victory.
Fortunately, for Truman, there were several flaws.
- First, polling stopped two weeks before Election Day. A prolific campaigner, Truman successfully energized voters during the homestretch.
- Second, pollsters relied on telephone surveys, a device that remained limited to well-to-do households in 1948. A populist Democrat, Truman polled poorly with wealthy Americans.
While the labor vote was energized on Election Day, overconfident Republicans played golf.