Hadley Cantril was born in Utah in 1906. He was educated at Dartmouth College and received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. In 1936 he joined the faculty of Princeton University Department of Psychology. In 1939 he established the Princeton Listening Centre to study German radio propaganda.
After gaining a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation Cantril established the Office of Public Opinion Research. A supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and intervention in the Second World War he was also an agent for the British Security Coordination and did work for the Fight for Freedom group. Cantril was of the opinion that Roosevelt needed "an improving body of public opinion to sustain him in each measure of assistance to Britain and the USSR."
As Richard W. Steele has pointed out: "public opinion polls had become a political weapon that could be used to inform the views of the doubtful, weaken the commitment of opponents, and strengthen the conviction of supporters." William Stephenson later admitted: "Great care was taken beforehand to make certain the poll results would turn out as desired. The questions were to steer opinion toward the support of Britain and the war... Public Opinion was manipulated through what seemed an objective poll."
Michael Wheeler, the author of Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics: The Manipulation of Public Opinion in America (2007): "Proving that a given poll is rigged is difficult because there are so many subtle ways to fake data... a clever pollster can just as easily favor one candidate or the other by making less conspicuous adjustments, such as allocating the undecided voters as suits his needs, throwing out certain interviews on the grounds that they were non-voters, or manipulating the sequence and context within which the questions are asked... Polls can even be rigged without the pollster knowing it.... Most major polling organizations keep their sampling lists under lock and key."
Hadley Cantril worked as an advisor to George H. Gallup and worked closely with David Ogilvy, who was employed by Gallup and was also an agent for British Security Coordination. It has been pointed out by Thomas E. Mahl, the author of Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States, 1939-44 (1998): "While analyzing Gallup results in 1943, Cantril came up with the startling observation that FDR's prospects of peace. If peace was at hand in 1944, FDR would have serious trouble getting re-elected." He was asked by David K. Niles of the White House if the results could be suppressed. Cantril replied that this was not his style "but I have tried to influence poll results by suggesting issues and questions the vote on which I was fairly sure would be on the right side."
In 1955 Cantril founded the Institute for International Social Research (IISR) with Lloyd A. Free. In 1960 they conducted a poll in Cuba for President Dwight Eisenhower and the CIA. It demonstrated great support for Fidel Castro, but this information was unfortunately not passed to John F. Kennedy to after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Cantril and Free also first discovered the paradox that American voters tend to oppose "big government" in general while supporting many specific liberal social programs.
When David Ogilvy read an early draft of The Quiet Canadian (1962) he requested that William Stephenson put pressure on H. Montgomery Hyde to remove all references to Cantil and George H. Gallup: "I beg you to remove all references to Hadley Cantril and Dr. Gallup... Dr. Gallup was and still is, a great friend of England. What you have written would cause him anguish - and damage. One does not want to damage one's friends... In subsequently years Hadley Cantril has done a vast amount of secret polling for the United States Government. What you have written would compromise him - and SIS (MI6) does not make a practice of compromising its friends."
Hadley Cantril died in 1969.
(1) David Ogilvy, letter to William Stephenson (13th November, 1962)
I beg you to remove all references to Hadley Cantril and Dr. Gallup... Dr. Gallup was and still is, a great friend of England. What you have written would cause him anguish - and damage. One does not want to damage one's friends... In subsequently years Hadley Cantril has done a vast amount of secret polling for the United States Government. What you have written would compromise him - and SIS (MI6) does not make a practice of compromising its friends.