Democracy Dies in Darkness

On Leadership

Harry Truman and the biggest polling error in presidential election history

August 15, 2016 at 12:11 AM

(Backgrounds by Craig & Karl for The Washington Post; Photo by Amy King/The Washington Post)

In the newest episode of the Presidential podcast, biographer David McCullough looks at some of the most difficult calls President Truman made during his time in the White House, including the decisions to drop the atomic bomb, push for civil rights legislation and fire Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Washington Post polling manager Scott Clement also joins the episode to explain the biggest polling failure in presidential history—when Truman won the 1948 election, despite the many polls that seemed to show he didn't stand a chance.

Listen to the episode here or on iTunes:

In previous episodes of the Presidential podcast, we've explored topics like Theodore Roosevelt's heartbreak and the violent life of Andrew Jackson. The podcast is hosted by Lillian Cunningham, editor of The Washington Post's On Leadership section.

As listeners tune in each week, the podcast reveals the ways in which our collective sense of what's 'presidential' has evolved over the years and how each president—esteemed, loathed or nearly forgotten—has something to tell us about what it takes to hold the nation's highest office.

A new episode comes out every Sunday. Here's how to follow along:

Subscribe for free on iTunes to automatically get new episodes when they launch
Check out our Presidential page on the Washington Post site for new episodes and the full series archive
* Follow us on Twitter for discussion about the episodes and upcoming teasers
* Follow us on Instagram for images from history and from behind the scenes of the podcast


Lillian Cunningham is the creator and host of the "Presidential" and "Constitutional" podcasts. She was previously a feature writer for and editor of The Washington Post's On Leadership section, for which she received two Emmy Awards for her interviews with leaders in politics, business and the arts.

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