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Adam Clymer, 81, Former Political Director of National Annenberg Election Survey

The Annenberg Public Policy Center community mourns the passing of Adam Clymer, 81, esteemed Washington journalist and political director of the  National Annenberg Election Survey (NAES) during the 2004 presidential election.

Adam Clymer
Adam Clymer

A reporter, editor, and pollster, Clymer covered Congress, eight presidential campaigns, and the downfalls of Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev and President Richard M. Nixon. At the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) he was known for his work on the 2004 NAES and his ability to quickly formulate polling questions from newsworthy events.

“As our polling adviser and the chief spokesperson for the National Annenberg Election Survey, Adam was the policy center’s most visible representative throughout the 2004 campaign,” said APPC director Kathleen Hall Jamieson. “He mentored the student researchers working on the project and framed and fielded our most controversial question.  We celebrate his remarkable life and remember him fondly.”

Ken Winneg, APPC’s managing director of survey research, said, “One of Adam’s great strengths as political director of NAES was his ability to see something in the day’s campaign and recognize its newsworthiness. Together, we’d write a question, put it in the field that night, and within a few days Adam would produce and publish a press release picked up by news organizations nationally and sometimes around the world.”

The controversial survey question on which Clymer worked involved the 2004 NAES, in which Native Americans were asked whether they found the name of the Washington Redskins to be offensive. The name was a source of recurring controversy; some years later, Clymer said he realized that the size of the survey made it possible to find out what Native Americans themselves thought about the question. The survey included responses from 768 people who self-identified as Indians or Native Americans. Ninety percent of those respondents said it was not offensive; 9 percent said it was offensive.

Adam Clymer, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, and Ann Clymer (left-to-right) at the October 2000 Chancellor Award luncheon.
Adam Clymer, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, and Ann Clymer at the October 2000 Chancellor Award ceremony.

In 2016, the Washington Post conducted its own survey on the question and replicated the results. Nine in 10 Native Americans said they were not offended by the name of the Washington Redskins name, the paper reported.

A former Times polling editor, Janet Elder, described Clymer as “one of the first journalists to identify and use poll numbers to explain the dynamics of the gender gap in American presidential politics, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1980.”

Clymer died on September 10, 2018. To read more about Adam Clymer and his life and achievements, see his obituary in The New York Times.