Roy Morgan conducted his first public opinion poll in September 1941 for The Sydney Sun, asking respondents how they felt about equal pay for men and women. The newspaper published the result – just 60% of Australians were in favour of equal pay back then – and the famous Morgan Gallup Poll was born.
Founder of Roy Morgan Research, Australia’s largest market research company, Roy Morgan started his career as an accountant, working for wealth management firm J.B. Were as a public company financial analyst and reviewing balance sheets for the Melbourne Stock Exchange’s Official Record. He also wrote analyses of public company accounts for the Argus before becoming a finance writer for Sir Keith Murdoch’s newspaper the Herald.
Learning from the best
It was Sir Keith who set young Morgan on the path that would change his life, by sending his new employee to Princeton (USA) in 1940 to learn public opinion polling and media research with renowned pollster Dr George Gallup. On his return to Australia, Morgan became Managing Director of Australian Public Opinion Polls (The Gallup Method), where he reported to William Dunstan, general manager of the Herald group.
Over the ensuing decades, Morgan Gallup Poll results published in Herald & Weekly Times Ltd newspapers around Australia established the benchmark for public opinion polling in this country.
Market research pioneer
By the mid-1950s, Roy Morgan’s market research career was in full swing. From the late 1950s, his company, the Roy Morgan Research Centre, conducted surveys for the likes of General Motors Holden, Philip Morris, Bank of NSW, Tattersalls, CUB and the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria. The development of a Consumer Opinion Trends omnibus survey played a major role in Roy Morgan Research’s growth, with food companies eager for insight into the motivations of grocery shoppers.
Roy Morgan’s son Gary joined the company in 1959; together, they developed the Roy Morgan Readership survey for publishers and agencies – which quickly became the currency for Readership in Australia.
Roy Morgan’s son Gary, Executive Chairman of Roy Morgan Research, recalls:
“We worked as a team – I sold surveys – my father changed my letters (grammar) into plain English always saying ‘state your case and prove it’!
“When I couldn’t overcome a major concern, he said ‘Sleep on it — your subconscious will give you the answer in the morning’. When I had a complicated problem he said, ‘Think — most people will do anything to avoid the hard work of thinking.”
By the time Roy Morgan died in October 1985, he had revolutionised Australia’s market research industry and left behind a business with truly international reach and influence.