The community of Jefferson was clearly a profound shaper of George Gallup's values. His environment also played a role in Gallup's "populist" views. Jefferson, Iowa embodied many of the Jeffersonian populist virtues - small, non-industrialized, composed of self-reliant, educated and politically involved citizens.

In speech after speech over the years Gallup presented a populist perspective, citing his faith in the people to make good decisions. His views were reinforced by surveys that showed the public to be ahead of its legislative leaders on scores of topics.

But Gallup worried constantly about the lack of basic knowledge among the populace on vital issues, and would have agreed wholeheartedly with Thomas Jefferson's dictum that "a democracy cannot be both ignorant and free."

At the center of democracy, Gallup believed, stands the educated citizen, able to make intelligent policy decisions.

George (Ted) Gallup was always proud of his roots and once told a reporter: "I'm from Jefferson, Iowa, and I'll always be from Jefferson, Iowa."

The town of Jefferson was laid out on land purchased by a two-hundred dollar loan in 1854. The original site consisted of 160 acres. Named after President Jefferson, who had died only 25 years prior to its purchase, the community was incorporated as a town in 1872.

A town of some 3,000 persons at the turn of the century, Jefferson was set in the plush farmland of central Iowa, in Greene County, located on high ground between the Raccoon River and Hardin Creek. At the turn of the century it looked little like the settled New England towns from which the vast majority of Jefferson's residents had come. The town had a rather bleak, frontier look. Most of the settlers of Jefferson had come from New England in a great cross-continent migration in the years 1850 to 1870, and were of English ancestry.

When the first settlers arrived in the early 1850's, there was only one tree standing at the present site of Jefferson - a tall, slender oak. Tradition has it that under this tree John Green, a Native American, smoked the peace pipe with the early settlers. Known as the "Charter Oak," it had been a source of pride for Jeffersonians for many years. Next to it, since 1901, stood the Gallup's octagonal house on Chestnut Street.

In 1901, Jefferson was enjoying the years of the "full dinner pail" that came with President William McKinley. Now with the Spanish-American war over, a period of peace and prosperity had come to the nation. Life was good to the farmer, and therefore to Jeffersonians, whose life was very much tied to the soil.

Yet with the good times came hardships. The world at the turn of the century into which Ted Gallup was born was a totally different world from today. At the beginning of the 1900's, the average life expectancy was under 50. The five leading causes of death in the United States were pneumonia, influenza, tuberculosis, diarrhea, heart disease, and stroke. Two out of ten adults nationally couldn't read or write (the ratio in Iowa was far better than the rest of the nation.) Only six percent of the entire population graduated high school. (This was in sharp contrast of the graduation rate of Jefferson High School, from which was 90 percent or higher, at least in more recent years.)

Only one in seven homes nationally had a bathtub. Fewer than 10 homes in 100 had a telephone. There were about 8,000 cars in the country in 1905 and only 144 miles of paved road.

Ninety-five percent of babies were born at home. Heat was provided by wood or coal-burning stoves. Rural areas had no electricity and most homes were lighted by kerosene lamps. Hand-pumped water was still common.

For Iowa and the Midwest, Jefferson was just enough larger than other towns at the time to have had a slightly more urbane character. It was served by two dailies. The larger of the two, the Jefferson Bee, founded in 1879, had a tremendous hold on the town.

Jefferson was decidedly Republican in its political orientation. In fact, it was not until 1932 that a Democrat was elected to high office in Iowa, and that person happened to be Ted Gallup's mother -in-law, Ola Babcock Miller, who against all odds, was elected as Secretary of State of Iowa that year. Ted Gallup predicted her win, and it was that experience more than anything else that led him to consider starting the Gallup Poll, which he did three years later.

A man named L.A. Krigbaum, Manager of the publication, The Iowa Illustrated, wrote the following about Jefferson in a 1896 edition of this publication. His language is pure "boosterism," but he does provide some of the flavor of the town of Jefferson near the turn of the century:

Here (in Jefferson) I find a class of business, financial and professional men, whose integrity and ability is unsurpassed by those of any city which I have yet visited; the homes are of unusual beauty and as to exquisite surroundings they will bear favorable comparison with any of her sister cities of Iowa. I find here an element of society that would be a credit to any community... I find here a liberal minded, charitably inclined class who are thoroughly devoted to the interests of one another. They labor zealously for any cause that will promote the best interest, and give liberally to all public enterprises... In fact, Jefferson, her surroundings and her people, should be a source of much pride and gratification to all, and I hail her as the zenith of inland Iowa.

A boyhood friend of Ted's, Lowell Cadd, offered this vignette of life in Jefferson:

I'm taking you back to 1910 and 1911. You could count the cars in Jefferson, Iowa on your two hands, and no trucks. Everything was done by horse power then. Jefferson was a small town, but it sure was a busy place when it came to horses. It had to be with the courthouse right in the middle and four banks all in the same block. There were also three butcher shops, four bakeries at one time, two pool halls, five or six churches, three blacksmith shops. No hospital at that time, but plenty of medical doctors.