Daniel Yankelovich, the pollster, author and public opinion analyst who for a half-century mirrored the perceptions of generations of Americans about politics, consumer products, social changes and, not least, themselves, died on Friday September 22 2017 at his home in the La Jolla section of San Diego. He was 92.
His daughter, Nicole Yankelovich Mordecai, said the cause was kidney failure.
One of the nation’s most respected social researchers, Mr. Yankelovich devised innovative surveys of small representative groups not only to track American preferences in cars and toothpaste, but also to understand the values and goals of ordinary people — what made them feel moral, happy or fulfilled, or miserable and marginalized in an affluent but impersonal society
Mr. Yankelovich did not stress election results, though he accurately called some presidential races, and his work helped national leaders, including Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, shape political agendas and domestic and foreign policies.
In 1975, Mr. Yankelovich and Cyrus R. Vance, who was later President Carter’s secretary of state, founded Public Agenda, a nonprofit foundation that used opinion research and town-hall meetings to engage public officials, educators and citizens on questions of foreign and domestic policy.
In 2012, Mr. Yankelovich founded the Yankelovich Center for Social Science Research at the University of California at San Diego. He later endowed the center with a multimillion-dollar bequest.
He graduated from Boston Latin School and enrolled at Harvard, but left for Army service in World War II. Returning to Harvard, he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1946 and a master’s in 1950.
After two years in Paris studying at the Sorbonne, he returned without a doctorate and went to work for a market research firm in Connecticut. In 1958 he founded Daniel Yankelovich Inc. in New York, which made his reputation.
The company became Yankelovich, Skelly & White in 1974, in recognition of the contributions by the executive vice presidents Florence Skelly and Arthur White. Saatchi & Saatchi, the advertising agency, later bought the company, but Mr. Yankelovich remained chairman until 1986, when he formed a new firm, Daniel Yankelovich Group.
In 1959, Mr. Yankelovich married Hasmieg Kaboolian. The couple had one daughter, Nicole, and were divorced. In 1991, he married a researcher, Mary Komarnicki. She was killed in 1995 in a car accident in San Diego in which Mr. Yankelovich was injured. He later married Barbara Lee; they were separated at his death. In recent years he lived with his companion, Dr. Laura Nathanson, at White Sands La Jolla, a retirement community.
Besides his daughter, Nicole, and Dr. Nathanson, his immediate survivors include a granddaughter and a sister, Libby Schenkman.more » « less