Helen M. Crossley (1921-2016)


“Helen has always retained a fascination with research methodology, and also with the potential of survey research to make new discoveries about humankind, and to bring about positive change in societies around the world.” — George Gallup Jr.

Helen M. Crossley was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in 1921 to parents Dorothy and Archibald Crossley, himself a pioneer in the field of public opinion and survey research. At age 9, Helen embarked on her first survey project of counting radio listeners for her father’s firm, Crossley, Inc. Her devotion to public opinion research remained prominent throughout her life. In 1947, she attended a conference in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where she became a founding member of two of the most prestigious professional associations for public opinion research: the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR). She remained an active member of both organizations throughout her life, serving as the first female president of WAPOR in 1961 and as Secretary-Treasurer of AAPOR in 1973 and 1975. After retirement, Helen continued her involvement by serving as WAPOR’s official historian and unofficial photographer.

Much of Helen’s career was spent as a dedicated public servant. After graduating from Radcliffe College in 1942, she aided in the war effort by moving to Washington D.C. to work for the Office of War Information and War Food Administration. She received her master’s degree in the social sciences from the University of Denver in 1948. She focused her studies and wrote her thesis on public opinion research, a field in which she has made a significant impact throughout her years of public service and dedication. In 1950, Helen continued her career in public service through the Armed Forces Information and Education Division in the Department of Defense in Germany, where she eventually was promoted to chief of research. In 1955, Helen transferred to the United States Information Agency (USIA), where she received an official citation from the Korean Ministry of Information for helping establish survey research in Korea. After a stint in the private sector beginning in 1963, which included co-authoring the book, “American Drinking Standards and Practices,” based on survey research that she and colleagues conducted, Helen returned to USIA in 1979.

After Helen retired from USIA in 1992, she assisted in expanding public knowledge of survey research by providing USIA data to the University of Connecticut’s Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. In 2008, Helen received the Roper Center’s Distinguished Service Award for “dedicated service to conducting and archiving international survey research.”

In keeping with her legacy of expanding public knowledge of survey research, Helen founded the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver in 2012. The Center is associated with the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. The Crossley Center trains students in public opinion methodology, in international public opinion subject matter, as well as in American public opinion related to foreign policy issues and is developing into a fully operational public opinion research center.

Through the Center, Helen and Archibald Crossley’s lifelong commitments to the field of public opinion research continue. You can read more about Helen on the Crossley Center website. She passed away on September 25, 2016. She will be missed.