"The polls always showed the possibility of a landslide either way," Samuel A. Stouffer, director of the Laboratory of Social Relations, commented yesterday.
"The Eisenhower popular vote between 54 and 55 percent seems to be very close to what the public opinion polls showed about voters who had already made up their minds."
On his last poll before the election, Gallup gave Eisenhower 47 percent, Stevenson 40 percent and left 13 percent undecided.
"The pollsters," said Stouffer, "admitted they could not cope with the huge number of undecided voters. They should be given credit for honesty in admitting this."
Stouffer went on to compare this election with '48. "In 1948 the undecided votes went to Truman 3 to 1. In this election they seem to have split exactly the way the decideds did."
According to Stouffer, this may have been due to a strong Republican fight, during the last week of the campaign. "But the polls," he said, "indicated a definite trend toward Stevenson, after the initial trend toward Ike."
"What happened in the last week of the campaign is anybody's guess."
What reversed these trends is a question that can only be decided by further opinion polling, Stouffer said. He added that two nation-wide follow-up surveys were now being planned to re-interview the undecided voters, and to determine "why and when they made up their minds."
In 1948 Stouffer was a member of the Committee on Pre-Election Polls and forecasts of the Social Science Research Council, which published a 400-page analysis of the polls after they failed to predict a Truman victory.
Before the election Stouffer had predicted that either candidate could win by a "whopping majority," but he had also felt that the odds were "about even."
He had said the polls showed how different groups of people reacted to such issues as communism and "don't let them take it away." Yesterday, many observers said Stevenson lost because of a defection in cities with large Catholic populations. Stouffer commented that the polls showed the "Catholic vote was definitely swinging toward Eisenhower."
There were many election observers who felt that the loss of the usually Democratic Catholic vote was due to the communism issue, and Senator McCarthy's campaign.