Pew Research Center has its origins in a research project created in 1990 by the Times Mirror newspaper company and called the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press. The project conducted regular polls on politics and major policy issues. In 1993, Andrew Kohut became its director, and in 1996, The Pew Charitable Trusts became the Center’s sponsor and renamed it the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

In the ensuing years, The Pew Charitable Trusts 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 in Washington, D.C., as a subsidiary to house these initiatives, with Kohut as its first president. In 2005, 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. In 2013, Kohut stepped down and became founding director, and Alan Murray became the second president of the Center. In October 2014 Michael Dimock, a protégé of Kohut hired in 2000, was named president. In 2015, under Dimock’s leadership, Pew Research Center embarked on a special effort to examine ways to expand and strengthen the traditional methodologies that underlie survey research as well as explore the potential of new, alternate methods at the frontier of social science research.