Hadley Cantril

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Hadley Cantril (1906–1969) was an American researcher of public opinion.


Born in Utah, he was educated at Dartmouth College and received his Ph.D. from Harvard. He joined the faculty of Princeton in 1936 and later became chairman of the Princeton University Department of Psychology. He was a member of the Princeton Radio Research Project before it relocated to Columbia University during the early 1940s, and was the main author of The Invasion from Mars, an academic study of Orson Welles's 1938 radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, which caused widespread panic. In 1940 he served as a consultant to the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs.[1] Cantril's later psychological work included collaboration with Adelbert Ames, Jr. developing a transactional method for studying human perception, as well as other research in humanistic psychology.[2]

Public opinion research[edit]

Though trained as a psychologist, Cantril's most important work concerned the then-new topic of public opinion research. Influenced initially by the success of George Gallup and Elmo Roper during the 1936 presidential election, Cantril sought to apply their systematic polling technique to academic social psychology.[3] Cantril was a founding editor of Public Opinion Quarterly. In 1940 he founded Princeton University's Office of Public Opinion Research.[4] and from autumn 1940 onwards provided the Roosevelt administration with confidential information about American public opinion, particularly regarding the war in Europe.[5] In 1942 Cantril conducted a small-sample survey of Vichy officials in Morocco, prior to Operation Torch, that revealed the intensity of the anti-British sentiment of the French forces there. This information influenced the disposition of forces during the operation, with American troops landing near Casablanca and mixed forces at Oran and Algiers.[5]

In 1955 he founded the Institute for International Social Research (IISR) with Lloyd A. Free.[6] Cantril had previously provided data on public opinion in America and abroad to Presidents Roosevelt and Eisenhower, and the IISR was often asked by United States government agencies to conduct small-sample public opinion polls in foreign countries.[7] Notably, Cantril and Free conducted a poll of Cuba during 1960 demonstrating great support for Fidel Castro, which was overlooked during the presidential transition between Eisenhower and Kennedy and read only after the Bay of Pigs Invasion fiasco.[6] Cantril's most-cited work is The Pattern of Human Concerns, notable for the development of the self-anchoring scale (also known as "Cantril's Ladder"). 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.[citation needed]

During the late 1950s, Cantril served on the International Objectives and Strategies panel of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund's Special Studies Project.[8]


Social Psychology of Everyday Life, 1934
The Psychology of Radio (with Gordon Allport), 1935

Industrial Conflict: a Psychological Interpretation, 1939

The Invasion from Mars, a Study in the Psychology of Panic, 1940

America Faces the War, a Study in Public Opinion, 1940

Psychology of Social Movements, 1941

Gauging Public Opinion, 1944

Psychology of ego-involvements : social attitudes & identifications, 1947 (co-authored with Muzafer Sherif)

Why's of man's experience, 1950

Tensions that cause wars (a report for UNESCO), 1950

Public Opinion, 1935–1946, 1951

How Nations See Each Other, a study in public opinion, 1953 (co-authored with William Buchanan)

Perception: a Transactional Approach, 1954 (co-authored with William H. Ittelson)

On Understanding the French Left, 1956

Faith, Hope, and Heresy: the Psychology of the Protest Voter, 1958

Politics of Despair, 1958

Reflections on the Human Venture, 1960

Soviet Leaders and Mastery over Man, 1960

Human Nature and Political Systems, 1961

Pattern of Human Concerns, 1965

Political beliefs of Americans; a study of public opinion, 1967

The Human Dimension: Experiences in Policy Research, 1967

Psychology, Humanism, and Scientific Inquiry: the Selected Essays of Hadley Cantril, 1988 (posthumously)


  1. ^ Investigation of un-American propaganda activities in the United States. United States Government Printing Office. 1940. p. 3244. and a special consultant for the Office of the Coordinator of Inter- American Affairs 
  2. ^ Public opinion and polling around the world: a historical encyclopedia, Volume 1 By John Gray Geer, pg 389-390
  3. ^ Public opinion and polling around the world: a historical encyclopedia, Volume 1 By John Gray Geer, pg 388
  4. ^ Stuart Oskamp, P. Wesley Schultz (2005). Attitudes and Opinions. Routledge. p. 314. ISBN 0-8058-4769-3. 
  5. ^ a b Public opinion and polling around the world: a historical encyclopedia, Volume 1 By John Gray Geer, pg 389
  6. ^ a b "Lloyd A. Free, 88, is dead; Revealed Political Paradox", New York Times, November 14, 1996.
  7. ^ "Worldwide Propaganda Network Built by the C.I.A." New York Times, December 26, 1976
  8. ^ Prospect for America: The Rockefeller Panel Reports. Doubleday. 1961.