IPR is featuring some of the many Hispanic and Latino pioneers and modern-day heroes to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.
In 1915, Joe Belden was born to Mexican parents in Texas. He spent his early childhood in Mexico, eventually graduating from high school in Texas. In the 1930s, Belden became interested in polling when he was a student at the University of Texas, where served as the editor of the student newspaper, “The Daily Texan.”
In 1940, he started the Texas Poll to gauge public opinion about social issues, politics, and elections. He collected public opinions about the 1938 Texas Democratic gubernatorial primary election and paid for the polling. Then, he took the results to the editor of the “Dallas Morning News” after the election. The editor was impressed, and in 1940, Belden launched the Texas Poll with the “Dallas Morning News” as his first client. The Texas poll was the first statewide opinion survey, which became a model for others.
Belden set up another polling company in Mexico in 1947. He used opinion surveys to create the first radio and TV rating system in Mexico. This provided information for advertisers regarding the number of people they reached with commercials, forever changing advertising. Belden also created the concept of market research by designing surveys to help newspapers determine what their readers wanted.
He retired in 1980, selling his interest in his market research firm, Belden Associates. Throughout his life, he won many awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Association for Public Opinion Research. Belden is credited for taking opinion surveys from guesswork to scientific research. He died in 2005 from Parkinson’s disease.
New York Times