He focused more on detailing, and explaining, shifting trends in American life: the “generation gap” of the 1960s, the rise of the women’s movement in the 1970s, the neoconservatism of many young people in the 1980s, the emergence of a “me first” self-indulgence in the 1990s, and in recent years a widespread feeling that Americans have no voice in the decisions that affect their lives.
“People feel they don’t have that voice, that they are not consulted, they’re not listened to, their views don’t really count,” Mr. Yankelovich told Bill Moyers in a 2002 PBS interview. But he offered a suggestion:
“We find when we bring average Americans together that they listen to one another, that they can contribute and that they can build, develop a vision of what they want our society to be like. And it’s really inspiring.”
The author of a dozen books and many articles for newspapers, magazines and academic journals, Mr. Yankelovich lectured at Harvard, the New School in New York, the University of California at San Diego and other universities, and was on the boards of corporations and cultural organizations.
In the 1970s, he began The New York Times/Yankelovich poll and developed many survey techniques that The Times and CBS News later jointly used in their coverage of politics and public opinion polling.
In 1975, Mr. Yankelovich and Cyrus R. Vance, who was later President Carter’s secretary of state, founded Public Agenda, a nonprofit foundation that used opinion research and town-hall meetings to engage public officials, educators and citizens on questions of foreign and domestic policy.
While Mr. Yankelovich was not a doctrinaire liberal, he expressed dismay at what he saw as the decline of progressive traditions, and often called for greater social responsibility on the part of government and corporate America. But he also sounded conservative themes in speeches and interviews, praising the work ethic, calling for welfare reforms and lamenting a loss of old-fashioned respect.
He was highly regarded by colleagues for his professional ethics, his imaginative and well-documented polling surveys and the quality of his statistical analyses. But critics sometimes faulted him, saying he worked too fast on complex data, used too much social-scientific jargon in his writing and expressed a habitual optimism that bordered on Pollyanna-ism.