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Daniel Yankelovich, the public opinion expert widely considered “the dean of American pollsters,” founded the center in 2012.

The name Yankelovich (pronounced “yankle-OH-vitch”) has been long associated with top-quality public opinion research and polling in the U.S.

Yankelovich, who resided in La Jolla before his death in 2017 at the age of 92, was perhaps best known for starting The New York Times/Yankelovich poll, a leading barometer of public opinion for decades.

The publication PR Week named him one of the 10 most influential people of the 20th century in the arena of public affairs, communications and public relations.

He left a legacy of supporting research at UC San Diego, geared toward improving how people live. He established the Daniel Yankelovich Chair in Social Thought and left a multimillion-dollar bequest to endow the Yankelovich Center for Social Science Research. In 2016, he received the prestigious Chancellor’s Medal for his support of the campus.

He served as a member of the UC San Diego Foundation Board of Trustees, the Social Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council and on the executive committee of the Yankelovich Center. Carol Padden, the dean of Social Sciences at UC San Diego, described him as “unwavering in his commitment to the American Dream which he saw as a promise to each generation of Americans that they too can improve their circumstances, their lives and gain economic security.”

Yankelovich founded several nonpartisan public policy research organizations, including Public Agenda, a nonpartisan group devoted to supporting our democracy with public opinion and citizen education.

He wrote many books, including “Coming to Public Judgment: Making Democracy Work in a Complex World;” “The Magic of Dialogue: Transforming Conflict into Cooperation;” and “Wicked Problems, Workable Solutions: Lessons from a Public Life.”

He was born in Boston in 1924 and went to Harvard University as an undergraduate but had to put his education on hold for three years while serving in the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II. After returning to the U.S. from Europe and completing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Harvard in 1946 and 1950, Yankelovich went on to postgraduate studies at the Sorbonne in France.

He then taught as a psychology professor at New York University and The New School for Social Research. In 1996, he served as a senior fellow at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He later retired and settled in La Jolla.

In addition to his service to UC San Diego, Yankelovich was a trustee at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Education, the Kettering Foundation and Brown University. He was also chair of the Advisory Board of the Future of American Democracy Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan foundation in partnership with Yale University Press and the Yale Center for International and Area Studies.

He considered his finest career achievement to be developing new methods of dialogue and deliberation for helping the public convert raw opinion into thoughtful judgment.

“The challenge is to help the public think through, deliberate, dissolve their own conflicts and finally reach considered judgment,” he said. “From my view as a student of public opinion, converting raw opinion into considered judgment is indispensable to the efficient functioning of public democracy.”