The founding director of the Pew Research Center was the dean of the polling profession — and a go-to guest for PBS, NPR, and other TV and radio newscasts needing thoughtful, dignified, and non-partisan insights into public attitudes regarding the press and policy. He died this morning at 73 from chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
Kohut was president of The Gallup Organization before 1989 when he founded Princeton Survey Research Associates, which looked at public opinion about media in addition to politics and public policy. In 1990 he became founding director for surveys at the Times Mirror Center For The People & The Press, and was promoted to director in 1993. The Pew Charitable Trusts became the Center’s sole sponsor in 1996.
During his tenure, Pew launched the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the Pew Internet & American Life Project, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the Pew Hispanic Center, the Pew Global Attitudes Project, and the Pew Social & Demographic Trends Project. He retired in 2012.
The American Association for Public Opinion Research gave Kohut its top honor, the Award for Exceptionally Distinguished Achievement, in 2005. It called him “the public face of opinion research to millions of Americans” who had “an unrivaled ability to speak in direct and understandable ways about complex political and social phenomena, while remaining sensitive to the proper uses and limits of survey methods.”