Center’s Board Announces Search for Successor
Washington (March 30, 2012) — Public opinion expert Andrew Kohut will be stepping down from his position as President of the Pew Research Center at the end of 2012, the Center’s Board of Directors announced today. He will stay on as senior research adviser, focusing on research practices and international and domestic public opinion analysis.
The Pew Research Center, a Washington-based subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, conducts public opinion polling, demographic research and other empirical social science research to inform the public, the press and policymakers. As a neutral source of data and analysis, the Center does not take positions on policy issues.
Kohut currently serves as both president of the Center as a whole and as director of two of the Center’s units, Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and Pew Global Attitudes Project. In the transition he will hand off those direct management roles while remaining involved as a senior adviser to both projects and to the Center more broadly as it continues to expand its portfolio of domestic and international research. In the coming months, he will work closely with the Pew Research Center board, The Pew Charitable Trusts and with his successor in 2013 to ensure a smooth transition.
“We are all committed to ensuring that the Pew Research Center continues to have a strong future as an independent, trusted source of facts and neutral analysis,” Kohut said in an email to staff. “I could not be more proud of the great contribution that the Pew Research Center has made in helping the press, the public and policymakers understand the trends shaping America and the world. And I look forward to even bigger and better things in this new era.”
“Under Andy Kohut’s leadership, the Pew Research Center has become one of the most trusted sources of facts and analysis on issues, attitudes and trends in America and the world,” said Rebecca Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Pew is committed to supporting this work in the coming years and to seeing the Center’s import grow both here and abroad.”
Donald Kimelman, Managing Director of Information Initiatives at The Pew Charitable Trusts and chair of the Pew Research Center’s board, said that planning for the succession has been under way for some time and that the board is thus prepared to begin a national search for Kohut’s successor early next month. The goal is to have a new president in place in January.
“Andy and other members of the Center’s leadership have built a powerful research organization that is known for the timeliness, relevance and clarity of its reports, as well as its measured and impartial data analysis,” Kimelman said. “Even as the Center’s research agenda evolves and its leadership changes, those core attributes will remain constant.”
Kohut has a long and distinguished career in public opinion research. This year’s presidential election contest is the 10th campaign in which he has conducted extensive pre-election polling. He was a student of George Gallup and Paul Perry, the founders of modern polling and opinion research practices, respectively. He served as President of The Gallup Organization from 1979 to 1989. In 1989, he founded Princeton Survey Research Associates, a polling firm specializing in media, politics and public policy studies. In 1990, he became the founding director of surveys for the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press, and he became its director in 1993.
In 1996, The Pew Charitable Trusts became the center’s sole sponsor. Since then, The Pew Charitable Trusts has launched other information initiatives modeled on the success of the neutral, independent “just-the-facts” approach of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. These included the Project for Excellence in Journalism, launched in 1997; Pew Internet & American Life Project (1999); Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (2001); Pew Hispanic Center (2001); and Pew Global Attitudes Project (2001). In 2004, The Pew Charitable Trusts established the Pew Research Center as a subsidiary to house these initiatives, with Kohut as its first president. In 2005, the Pew Research Center launched the Pew Social & Demographic Trends project, combining original survey research with analysis of U.S. Census Bureau surveys and other data sources.
Unlike many think tanks, the Pew Research Center does not make policy recommendations; its mission is to inform, not to prescribe. As Kohut said when the Center was launched in 2004, “It’s more a ‘fact tank’ than a think tank. It’s a new kind of Washington organization that collects information and disseminates it in an understandable and analytical way, rather than producing expert opinion on policy subjects.”
The Center marries the methodological rigor of social science with the storytelling skills of journalism; its staff of 130 comprises both journalists and social scientists. In March, the Pew Charitable Trusts’ board approved a strategic plan for the Center that calls for expansion of its international research portfolio. Building that greater global presence will be a high priority for the Center’s next president, Kimelman said.
In addition to overseeing the Center’s research agenda, Kohut has also served as a public opinion consultant and analyst for National Public Radio, commented on public opinion for news programs such as PBS’s NewsHour and has been a frequent op-ed contributor for leading newspapers. He is the co-author of four books, including America Against the World (Times Books) and The Diminishing Divide: Religion’s Changing Role in American Politics (Brookings Institution Press).
In 2005, the American Association for Public Opinion Research awarded him its highest honor, the Award for Exceptionally Distinguished Achievement, calling him “the public face of opinion research to millions of Americans” and praising him for “an unrivaled ability to speak in direct and understandable ways about complex political and social phenomena, while remaining sensitive to the proper uses and limits of survey methods.”
Under Kohut’s leadership, the Pew Research Center has studied long-term changes in the political and social values of the U.S. electorate; accurately predicted the outcome in five elections; measured global public opinion on America’s image and international issues through more than 270,000 survey interviews conducted in 57 countries; examined shifts in trust in the news media; and conducted ground-breaking research into the views of small, hard-to-study populations such as Muslim Americans, Mormons and post 9-11 war veterans.
Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It does not take positions on policy issues. The center is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts, its primary funder.