Some 200 to 300 companies are involved in opinion research in the United States today. Most concentrate on the huge market for product-related surveys - ranging from consumer preferences on packaging and taste to the public's attitude toward whole industries.
The best-known polls, however, are those that publish findings about issues and politics. These are known as ''public'' polls. Some organizations, such as Roper, Gallup, and Harris, do a substantial amount of market research as well. But their reputations rest largely on their political work. The ''public'' polls include those run by major news organizations.
''Private'' pollsters work for a particular candidate or political party. They are increasingly prominent figures in American politics. Most are closely identified with one of the major parties, and some have close ties to a single candidate.
Major ''public'' polling organizations
Bureau of Social Science Research Inc. (Washington)
Louis Harris & Associates (New York)
National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago
Opinion Research Corporation (Princeton, N.J.)
Penn + Schoen Associates (New York)
Survey Research Center, University of Michigan
The Gallup Poll (Princeton, N.J.)
The Roper Organization (New York)
Yankelovich, Skelly & White (New York)
ABC/Washington Post Poll
CBS/New York Times Poll
Los Angeles Times Poll
Some prominent ''private'' pollsters
Peter Hart (Walter Mondale's pollster - based in Washington)
Dottie Lynch (Gary Hart's pollster - Washington)
William R. Hamilton (John Glenn's pollster - Washington)
Patrick Caddell (Washington)
Richard Wirthlin of Decision Making Information (Presi dent Reagan's pollster - Washington, Los Angeles)
Robert Teeter of Market Opinion Research (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Lance Tarrance (Houston)