Up To Now: IPO
As the name indicates, it was a take-off from the American Institute of Public Opinion (the Gallup Poll). The idea grew out of Speer's curiosity about the average age of fans, and he had given it considerable thought when he remarked to Wiggins, his principal correspondent at the time, "Why doesn't someone start an International Institute of Private Opinion to find out what fans think on such matters?" Wiggins failed to react, but next letter Speer included a depiction of the make-up of a card in such a questionnaire. OFW replied that he would back him to the limit if he should wish to try this trick.
The ballots were to be mailed out with SFFan, but at this point Wiggins made the first of his bewildering series of changes of address; as the first questions were to concern the possibility of a fantasy federation, and the Third Convention loomed near, Speer purchased hekto and pencil, ran off some dim cards, included stamps for return stuck in slits in the cards (a trick tested with Wilson), and sent them out to around thirty scientifictionists, bringing the number up to 40 thru personal correspondence. Thereafter all cards were mailed with SFF (save a month or two when SFFs circulation went below 40), and the number of cards sent was held at 40 except on one or two occasions, when 41 slipped by.
Naturally, returns on the first poll were rather small, many thinking it a practical joke, but the results were printed in SFFan and a new batch of cards distributed; and with choice of better questions as a result of fans' votes on what to ask, the popularity of the poll increased, the number of replies rising from around 15 at first to around 30 toward the last (there were twelve polls in all, extending over a period of nearly two years). Speer attempted to get cards especially to those in the habit of answering, but Wiggins gave little cooperation along that line.
In the first poll, sent out by himself, Speer had sought to obtain a balance between top-flight fans, run of the mill, and borderliners, but when the poll went under SFF this was no longer possible; the geographical breakdowns, based on postmarks, proved fairly significant. With the decline of the SFFan in the esteem of the non-Wollheimists, the group covered became less truly representative, and returns on several questions less trustworthy.
Several of the results on questions stand out. The ratings of favorite fan magazines, and favorite professional magazines, tho of no permanent interest, were enjoyed at the time, and showed SFFan leading the fan magazines, and Astounding way out ahead of the other pro's. On the first poll asking that the three "top" fans be named, Wollheim's position was shown by his gaining first place with well over twice the points of his nearest rival, and all down the line, ratings showed the general opinion of fans at the time with regard to leading fans. The question all were waiting for was Michelism, but as this was to be presented at the same time as the religious question, Speer found it advisable for several reasons to delay a good many months before presenting them, and by the time they were asked, the Michelist vote was infinitesimal. The age of fans was found to cluster around 18 years; in nationality, German blood held a plurality, with Italian, Jewish, and Russian far down the line, contrary to what the fans' names might lead one to expect; Anglo-Saxon was strong. Not very successful attempts were made to get definitions of "science fiction" and "real fans". Leading fan writers and artists were named.
The last four polls, certain earlier questions were re-asked to determine the shifts of opinion, but the change in SFFs constituency relative to fandom as a whole rendered them of questionable value. Wollheim continued as "top" fan by a narrow margin.
Along the same lines as the IPO were questions of the Novae Terrae Panel of Critics, which ran several questionnaires of about 20 questions each. Other similar institutions that can hardly be called imitations were the PSFS inquisition into the best stf author of 1938, and surveys by the weeklies SFNL and Le Vombiteur re favorite fantasy films, and best-remembered stf tales.
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