Much has been written about the exemplary life and work of Utah’s premier pollster, Dan Jones, who passed away last week at age 84.
In working with Dan for many decades, one of the things I most appreciated about him was that I could count on him to bring me bad news.
I didn’t always like the bad news. In fact, sometimes the data from his research disappointed me, upset me and sometimes even made me a little angry.
But Dan’s basic honesty and integrity, his professional ethics, didn’t allow him to tell a client only what the client wanted to hear. He delivered the unvarnished truth whether it was painful or not.
I engaged Dan, over many years, to do a wide variety of public opinion research projects. We studied public sentiment on numerous business topics. We measured voter attitudes regarding political candidates, incumbent politicians and a wide array of public policy issues. We studied public opinion on cultural and arts matters.
Over the years, Dan became much more than a consultant or contractor. He became a close friend and confidante. And I appreciated the fact that I would always get accurate, actionable data, whether I liked the results or not. He would tell me when a competitor was ahead, when a service or product suffered from poor public perception, or when a policy issue I supported was losing.
I always knew Dan was telling me the things I needed to know and hear, the things that would help improve my business, my community and my state.
Besides Dan’s honesty and integrity, I greatly appreciated Dan’s dedication to his craft — his professionalism, ethics and expertise in the art and science of survey research. He was a pollster’s pollster.
Amidst rapidly changing technology, it wasn’t easy to stay at the top of the polling profession decade after decade. Connecting one-on-one with respondents is harder than ever. And bogus social media and online surveys are ubiquitous.
But Dan never became an “old school,” outdated pollster. He enthusiastically updated his methodologies, taking advantage of new tools and techniques, while demanding the professional rigor of legitimate practices to obtain the most accurate results.
Dan did stick to the old polling values and ethics of asking unbiased, fair questions, of zealously obtaining an accurate sample with the correct demographics, and treating respondents with respect and courtesy.
Dan was also a worrier — in the best sense possible. Being a worrier is a very good trait in the polling world, because it meant Dan was obsessed with obtaining accurate data.
In his career, Dan was the consummate professional. In his private life, Dan was a loving husband, father and teacher.
He loved and adored his children and his wife Pat. He appreciated Pat’s own remarkable skills and abilities. He appreciated her business acumen and was proud of her outstanding public service. They were a great match and a great team.1 comment on this story
Dan loved to teach, and thousands of college students were inspired and influenced in his government and politics classes, particularly at the University of Utah Hinckley Institute of Politics. He was as committed to his students as he was to his profession.
Dan was an adviser to governors, senators, congressmen and business leaders. He helped shaped lives, careers, policies and strategies. He helped numerous leaders find creative solutions to community and state problems by helping them understand the opinions of citizens.
In all of this, he was a true gentleman, a humanitarian who genuinely cared about the community. He will live on in the hearts and souls of his family, his students and the thousands who were inspired by him.