September 8, 2015

Remembering Andy Kohut

Andrew KohutToday, we grieve the loss of our founder, mentor and bedrock, Andrew Kohut, who led Pew Research Center from 2004 until 2012 and previously led Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. He passed away this morning.

For those who knew Andy personally, professionally or even only through his media appearances, the thought that this day could come is unimaginable. Andy’s force of will was incomparable, and he went into tackling his leukemia with the same drive, attention to detail and optimism that he brought to everything else in his life. To us, Andy was indestructible, which makes his loss inconceivable.

But Andy will remain with us because of the impact his work will continue to have on the world. We at Pew Research Center live this every day, in an organization whose principles, methods and approach to doing research were forged by his leadership. He taught us the importance of innovation, relevance, rigor, objectivity, humility, and ultimately, getting it right. Andy’s values and mission drive the center, and we continue to strive to live up to the standard he set.

I worked side by side with Andy for more than 15 years, and he always brought out the best in me – sometimes with a guiding hand, and sometimes with a swift kick. I watched how his judgment, instincts and unwillingness to ever settle for second-best drove Pew Research Center to be what it is today, and I thank him for that.

Rebecca Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts, our parent organization, shares our grief and admiration: “It has been more than 20 years since Andy and I began working together to create the Pew Research Center. In the decades since, he has been an inspiration, a mentor, a friend and a wonderful colleague. The board of directors of The Pew Charitable Trusts join me in mourning his loss, but we are also grateful for his remarkable contribution to advancing the founders’ credo: Tell the truth and trust the people.”

Andy’s importance reaches far beyond Pew Research Center, as he was a standard-setter and innovator for the entire survey research community. I believe the key to Andy’s success was rooted in his fundamental respect for people. Public opinion was something precious to Andy. He believed that people trust us with their views, and that it’s our obligation to gather them reliably and respectfully, and to analyze and assess what people tell us with the utmost care. In an era when many numbers, including polling, have become increasingly automated and commodified, Andy always reminded us that the “public” in public opinion is not an indiscriminate force. It is people.

We will miss Andy greatly, but his tremendous legacy will live on with us in the years to come.

Please feel free to share your memories and appreciations in the comments.

  1. Photo of Michael Dimock

    is the president of Pew Research Center.

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49 Comments

  1. Wendy Landers7 months ago

    I am still grateful for the job back in the summer of 1998. It is one of the high points of my life. Thanks for the help when I needed it. I’m reminding myself that survey research will go on even though one of its touchstones is gone. Please give my sympathy to his family.

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  2. Christiane Amanpour8 months ago

    Andy will be tremendously missed. He was the steady barometer of facts in our increasingly polarized world. He told us the important trends we wanted to know about, and those we didn’t even know we needed to understand. I relied heavily on his wisdom. He made PEW a respected indispensable global brand.
    Christiane Amanpour, CNN Chief Int’l Correspondent

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  3. Philip Fenster8 months ago

    Pew Research is the mirror I look into for knowledge and perspective about — well — us. If you asked me yesterday, I would have guessed it was a magic mirror channelling wisdom from the aether. I should have realized something this good, this great was the result of an uncompromising vision of how to build a foundation for public policy. Thank you Andy Kohut for giving me and so many others this wonderful mirror.

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  4. Sandy Hjortland8 months ago

    A moving tribute to a founding father of social research. The Pew was shaped by his ideas and now it is in good hands. The integrity of the work will continue. The reputation is strong. We rely upon the unbiased reports now more than ever. So many influences try to cover the truth, so much media tries to sway our thinking. We look to the Pew for the truth. We have for what, 20 years? We will continue to do so. Keep up the good work, Mike Dimock.

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  5. Anne Jayne8 months ago

    Mike, You wrote a beautiful tribute to your friend! Best wishes as you carry on. with sympathy, Jerry and Anne Jayne

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  6. Lizzie O’Leary8 months ago

    I’m so glad to see the word “integrity” here, over and over. Andy personified it. I met him first as a young editorial assistant at NPR and he shaped the way I think about politics and polling. He was always kind and patient with me, radiating patience and decency. He will be tremendously missed.

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  7. Judy Woodruff8 months ago

    It was with shock and a deep sense of loss that Al and I heard the news about Andy just as we were about to take off for a flight to China. We’re now somewhere over Greenland and have been talking about what an amazing man he was. I feel as if I’ve known him forever, he was a presence in public opinion and political polling from my earliest days as a reporter. The NewsHour became completely dependent on him as you know because he was one of the very few in the business who could explain what “the people” were thinking without tilting in any direction. As Michael writes in this wonderful tribute, he was a delight and a curmudgeon at the same time. I loved working with him on the millennials/ Generation Next project in 2005 and 06, he kept us all focused and on our toes at the same time he conveyed a genuine excitement about what we were doing.
    Sharp and precise when he could be, but never leaning farther out on a piece of data than the facts would support. No one explained what was happening better than he did when he’d appear on the show. At a time when young and hip was coming into vogue, Andy was solid and steady and ready with context and history.
    I was so fond of him personally, am sad for his loved ones, and am sure his Pew family mourns him greatly.
    With respect and condolences,
    Judy Woodruff and Al Hunt

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  8. Clelia Corona9 months ago

    I a saddened to read this news. My deepest condolences to his family and to all of us; we greatly benefited from this dedicated work. May it long continue. Crucial.

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  9. Vicente Machín9 months ago

    Mi mas sincero pésame a la familia de Andrew Kohut.
    Lamento su muerte y se lo manifiesto a todos los colaboradores en el CENTRO DE INVESTIGACION PEW, especialmente a su presidente Michael Dimock.

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    1. Vicente Machín8 months ago

      This show of sympathy is a tribute to the person who dedicated much of his life to the noblest of professions.

      Reply
  10. Adeyemo Sodipo9 months ago

    Sorry to hear about the loss Andrew Kohut. He was a genius and we should thank him for his services. Thank you Andrew Kohut for being my teacher!!! I learned a lot from him.

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  11. Will Mattsson9 months ago

    I was saddened to learn of Mr. Kohut’s death on the PBS news hour. This was where I first encountered Mr. Kohut and the Pew Research Center, and began to understand the importance of well-organized information gathered from people who were asked informative, interesting and thorough questions about our country and how we as a people relate to each other. His data were always concise, clear and presented without bias.
    He will be missed.
    Will Mattsson

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  12. Judy Johnstone Jones9 months ago

    I will miss not seeing this man on the PBS News Hour; his clear and cogent remarks educated us all!

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  13. Gary Tasaka9 months ago

    Very sad news. I thoroughly enjoyed Andy’s analysis and I will miss him on PBS Newshour. Condolences to all who loved him.

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  14. Mark Isenberg9 months ago

    Andy’s passing is being noted by many media folks and others so all I know is that when he was on the McNeill Lehrer Newshour or the PBS Newshour,I listened to what he had to say. A few may call him a liberal or social activist and I did not wonder about his bent. I am just glad he hung in with all of you who knew him for as long as he could and there will be plenty of time to share stories ahead and someone should do a book about him,later. My sympathy to all of you at Pew,his family and friends. He did important work and will be remembered.

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  15. Mary Rochester9 months ago

    I am truly grateful for Pew Research. I trust it above all others.

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  16. Jill Hirt9 months ago

    I always enjoyed seeing him on the PBS Newshour. His astute comments will be sorely missed by many.

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  17. kent mollohan9 months ago

    I share your grief for the loss of a researcher whose personal credo was for publishing the truth. Times change and I believe others will be inspired by his work, indeed, Pew’s work and will provide the rest of us with substantial and meaningful insight into this American life. I hope his spirit and that of the little child from Syria blend into more inspired knowledge for power for the rest of the world.

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  18. Jeff Berner9 months ago

    I cannot tell you how valuable the Pew project is to me.

    I was the youngest by-line columnist on a major newpaper in the USA, from 1967-68, on the San Francisco Chronicle/Examiner Sunday pink section, with a circulation of 1 million: “Astronauts of Inner-Space.” I was 26!

    I tell you this becuase I thought I knew something of the profession, until I discovered Pew RC only a few years ago!

    Thanks soooo much to Andy Kohut and the Pew Research Centre!!

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  19. Kathryn9 months ago

    Please fix the typo: I watched how his judgment, instincts and unwillingness to ever settle for second-best drove Pew Research Center to be what it is today, and I thank him for that.

    I think you meant Andy would “Never settle for second-best”!

    Of course not!!

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  20. David Alpern9 months ago

    So sad.
    Andy was still with Gallup when he helped us launch The Newsweek Poll and make it a widely reported and respected measure of public opinion.
    We were reunited when the poll moved to Princeton Survey Research Associates and it was exciting to work together to get behind and beyond “the horserace.”
    I will remember as well his intensity on the tennis court and in the kitchen.
    A good pal, a great mentor and an important voice in the public square.
    David

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  21. bruce stokes9 months ago

    It is hard to put into words my respect for Andy: his belief that facts matter, that the people have meaningful views and they deserve elucidation, his insight that the time was ripe to begin rigorous global polling, his demand that we all live up to the highest polling and writing standards, his journalistic instincts that enabled him to find the story in a mass of contradictory data, the boyish joy he took in diving into a mass of statistics to find the nugget of a story and, above all, his friendship. A British diplomat who barely knew Andy summed it up best: “he seemed to honour the maxim “Vox Populi, Vox Dei” with both faith and evidence – a good combination!”

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    1. Nicole Speulda9 months ago

      There are some people you believe will life forever, and to me Andy was one. As a mentor, who hired me out of undergrad in 1999, he was second to none. He taught me how to tell stories with numbers and shared his keen eye for analysis. He was tough and I respected him all the more for it.
      His energy and passion for public opinion and solid research was infectious and I have had the great fortune to have a successful career in this business because of the work ethic and dogged commitment to methodological correctness he instilled in me early on.
      A collective hug goes out to Diane and the entire Pew family.

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  22. Michael Fenichel9 months ago

    He was a giant and constant companion to me across media. Often he was the one who could explain what it all means – ‘trending’ ideas and social changes were his forte, long before twitter-boards and AOL or Facebook-centric snap surveys. I’ve cited him and Pew for as long as I’ve known it to be THE societal and global mirror which it was, which it is.
    Sad to hear the news, and thanks to his Pew family for the personal reflections, and may you carry on his legacy and mission.

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  23. Les Crystal9 months ago

    A very sad day, indeed.

    Andy’s contributions to political polling and political reporting were enormous. Transparency, objectivity, context and accuracy were his watchwords. During his many appearances on the PBS NewsHour we never had to worry about spinning or conclusions that were not based on solid research and analysis.

    Andy Kohut was the gold standard.

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  24. Leslie McNeill9 months ago

    Andy Kohut was a welcome person via PBS Newshour in my home…He will be missed. Condolences to all who worked with him….and his family….

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  25. Staci Simmons Waldvogel9 months ago

    Well said. Andy was easy to admire and appreciate.

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  26. Terry Filicko9 months ago

    Condolences to Mr. Kohut’s professional and personal families. I’ve read his work and listened for his commentary for years. He will be missed.

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  27. Bruce Drake9 months ago

    There was a waiter at Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown, near where Andy lived, whose name for a year I mispronounced as Ha-sheem. One night when Andy and I met for dinner there (and a few drinks) he heard me pronounce it that way and leaned over to whisper, “Bruce, his name is Hee-Shem.” Andy knew that because Hishem was his tennis coach. And Andy no doubt would like it to be known that, in addition to all the accolades je won as a pollster, Hishem said he was pretty good on the courts.

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  28. Robert Nielsen9 months ago

    This is so sad. I had the great privilege to work with Andy for a few months at Gallup. A few months ago I sent Andy a note about how much I appreciated what he was doing at Pew. I had no idea he had leukemia. Now I am so glad I sent him that note. The tribute above is very fitting of the kind of guy Andy was.

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  29. Mary Madden9 months ago

    I am extremely grateful to have worked under Andy’s leadership for so many years, and proud to have been among those who learned “Andy’s way” of approaching research (be as rigorous as possible, strive to be as impartial as possible, and always be relevant to the public conversation). He was a brilliant man with an encyclopedic knowledge of the world and a seemingly endless array of thoughtful questions to help us better understand it. He cared deeply about giving a voice to the public and grounding polarized debates with a balanced perspective based on reliable data. He was also a wonderful human being with a warm heart and he will be immeasurably missed.

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  30. George Gao9 months ago

    I’ll very fondly remember the days that I got to number check Andy’s blog posts. I’d show up to his office empty handed, and then return to my desk with a pile of dusty public opinion records from the 1960s and 70s, when Andy first started as a pollster for Gallup.

    America was a different country back then, and Americans were different people. What was amazing to me was that Andy had the vision and perseverance to take snapshots of American society over time and for so many decades. He was able to track just exactly how the country and its people have changed. As a result, no one in modern history was more in tune with the American public.

    Andy was able to write crystal clearly about his discoveries, and to make these trends come to life. I always admired him for that.

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  31. Paul DelPonte9 months ago

    I was so sorry to read the news. Andy was top notch all the way. He certainly made a lasting impact and will be missed by many.

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  32. Jill Lawrence9 months ago

    I feel like Andy was my reality check and security blanket through many years of journalism. He was never too busy to think, really think, about what you were asking. And if you were off-base, he was quick to set you straight. He wouldn’t ever go out on limbs that weren’t supported by numbers, and he somehow transmuted all those numbers into brilliant insights and analysis — all in highly quotable form, of course. He will be sorely missed.

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  33. Greg Allen9 months ago

    Andy was a a great man, a gentleman happy to explain polling in a way that got to ideas, not the horse race. He was gracious to reporters and producers asking dumb questions on deadline. His thoughts were valuable because they were always based on data, not his opinion. He’ll be missed.

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  34. Ralph Begleiter9 months ago

    I was privileged to have worked with Andy many years ago in my previous incarnation at CNN. He was ALWAYS smart, always thoughtful, always articulate and always kind and helpful to a journalist trying to make sense-under-pressure of political polling. More recently, he was kind to visit the University of Delaware to help my students understand the same things, with a special focus on his work with Pew’s Global Attitudes project, a monumental piece of work he supervised.
    His loss is a blow to the interface between the world of survey technicians/analysis and the world of media and public consumer understanding. But his legacy is also monumental, perpetuated through the profound and far reaching work of Pew Research.
    Thank you, Andy. I miss your voice of rigor and clarity. Sincere condolences to family and friends.

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  35. Fred Silverman9 months ago

    Having had conversations with Andy over the years, he was not only a mensch but a brilliant mensch.

    He will be sorely missed.

    Fred

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  36. Jennifer Harper9 months ago

    Sympathy to his family, co-workers, friends. A gentleman, a scholar and an indefatigable pro who was always there with the real numbers and authentic insight.

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  37. Francisco J. Mota9 months ago

    Dear PRS people,

    Don’t be sad this day. Andy Kohut’ vision has changed the world for ever. Scientific polling is, in fact, the Archimedean lever that will change the world dramatically. I explain how. My first book, If Darwin and Socrates, Global Sciocracy, is being published in Spanish these days and hopefully it will be translated into English soon.
    Ethical, scientific polling is the Archimedean lever to move the world.

    Paco Mota

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  38. Claudia Deane9 months ago

    Things I learned from Andy:
    When in doubt, assume there’s something YOU don’t understand, rather than something the public doesn’t understand.
    A good public opinion release should include three things: what the public thinks on any given issue at the moment; what the public has thought about the issue over time; what key subgroups think about the issue.
    Lead with the news.
    Don’t write like an academic.
    Historical perspective is vital to speaking intelligently about public opinion.
    Number check number check number check.
    It is possible to love your job.

    I’m really going to miss you, Andy

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    1. Richard Burkholder9 months ago

      Brilliant Claudia. Perfectly put.

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    2. Elizabeth Gross9 months ago

      Thanks, Claudia, this is perfect.
      And can we add: being first 🙂
      (of course that only counts if you’re right, just to add to the challenge)

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  39. Chintan Turakhia9 months ago

    I have the honor of working with Andy for close to two decades. I feel a personal sense of loss. Loss of a friend and a well-wisher. His contributions to survey research field are unmatched and future generations will benefit from them for years to come.

    Heartfelt sympathies to Diane, Matt and Nick.

    Chintan

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  40. David Ignatius9 months ago

    Andy Kohut had the essential quality of a great pollster: He respected other people’s opinions. Whenever I asked him for help on a column or other problem, he answered without cant or preconceived ideas or any other reflexive judgment. He tried to think things through, looking at objective evidence and then forming a reasoned conclusion. I felt lucky every time I talked with him.

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  41. Chuck Raasch9 months ago

    Andy was the consummate professional, but what I will most remember is that he was a gentleman in every encounter I had with him. He also had that too-rare-in-Washington ability to acknowledge that he did not have the answer to all things.

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  42. Jessica Schillinger9 months ago

    Andy was a kind and brilliant man, and I always looked forward to working on projects with him. He had a way of setting a clear vision of integrity and professionalism for every project that is unmatched. Andy was the Pew Research Center and Pew Research was Andy. It was a privilege to know him and have him as a colleague.

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  43. Laura Stokes-Gray9 months ago

    A great loss. He was all about trust and integrity.

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  44. Katty Kay9 months ago

    We will all miss Andy enormously. He was, of course, a consummate professional, always objective and always wise (almost unique in American politics) but more importantly Andy was an immensely kind, soft spoken, humble man. It was a pleasure to know him, to catch up in the neighborhood and see him enjoy long and not very leisurely games of tennis at Rose Park. It’s hard to think he won’t be there anymore.

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  45. Doug Eddy9 months ago

    I am sad to learn of the death of Andrew Kohut. I always enjoyed listening to him when he was a guest on PBS, and valued his objectivity and wisdom. Pew Research Center is an invaluable resource for me, particularly in the religion surveys. My prayers and thoughts are with Mr. Kohut’s family and with his skilled colleagues at Pew Research Center. We have all lost an important light in our search to understand this complex world in which we live.

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