Richard B. Wirthlin

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Richard Bitner Wirthlin was a government strategist and pollster and leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Wirthlin was born on March 15, 1931, in Salt Lake City. He was the son of Joseph L. Wirthlin, a former member of the Presiding Bishopric. His brother Joseph B. Wirthlin was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Wirthlin obtained his bachelor’s degree in economics and his master’s degree in economics and statistics from the University of Utah. He earned his PhD in economics from the University of California at Berkeley. He started a survey research company in 1969 in Los Angeles that eventually became Wirthlin Worldwide, one of the largest market-research firms in the world. Harris Interactive bought the company in 2004 and Wirthlin served on its board of directors. He has been called by some “the father of modern polling.” He pioneered many new polling techniques, including voter-precinct targeting, computer-assisted telephone interviews, values research, “people-meter” groups and Internet-based surveys.

When California Governor Ronald Reagan ran for president, he went to Wirthlin for political advice. Wirthlin and his company were instrumental in Reagan’s 1980 and 1984 presidential elections. Wirthlin was a close advisor and strategist to Reagan for more than twenty years. He wrote a book, The Greatest Communicator: What Ronald Reagan Taught Me about Politics, Leadership, and Life, about his experiences with Reagan.

He also served as an adviser and pollster to presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Wirthlin served as a missionary to Switzerland and Austria from 1951 to 1953 and was a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy from 1996 to 2001.

He and his wife, Jeralie Mae Chandler, were the parents of eight children and had 27 grandchildren. He passed away on March 16, 2011.