When Pew Research Center founder Andrew Kohut passed away yesterday at the age of 73, the outpouring of tributes and remembrances reached far and deep. Those who had known and worked with Kohut honored him both for the work that he did and for the type of man that he had been.
From Pew Research Center president Michael Dimock:
I worked side by side with Andy for more than 15 years, and he always brought out the best in me – sometimes with a guiding hand, and sometimes with a swift kick. I watched how his judgment, instincts and unwillingness to ever settle for second-best drove Pew Research Center to be what it is today, and I thank him for that.
Andy Kohut, through the company he created and ran with his wife, Diane Colasanto, and through his work for Times Mirror and Pew, was not just the gold standard for public-opinion polling—he was the platinum standard. Andy knew everything about the realities and problems with polling. He insisted on rigid standards, and honed the questions and survey formats to be as accurate and as utterly objective as possible. He used some of the resources at Pew to examine what kinds of instruments work and don’t work in surveys, and to keep the industry as honest and competent as possible. There are good pollsters and good polling organizations out there, and a lot of smart and conscientious people in the profession. But no one, frankly, came close to Andy—and no organization even begins to rival the Pew Research Center he built.
NPR‘s Ron Elving:
But we always thought of Andy as ours.
Because for decades, he was NPR’s on-air and in-house expert on the mind of America. And we called on him often — more than 500 times, in fact. We called him our public opinion consultant and analyst, which meant election night was always Andy Night at NPR. From the Age of Reagan to the Era of Obama, Andy was The Man. And he was the man to see, as soon as the data started rolling in. Because, while always disguised as a mild-mannered reporter, Andy seemed to have superpowers.
American Press Institute executive director Tom Rosenstiel:
He was blunt and brilliant. He was intuitive and passionate. He was driven but creative. He cared deeply about the people he worked with and about the work of trying to understand the public mind. And he proved over and over in his career that you could flourish doing both.
Those qualities made Andy not only the wisest interpreter of data about the public I’ve ever known. They made him a brilliant teacher and mentor, a colleague I trusted to always be honest with me, and an even better friend.
PBS NewsHour‘s Gwen Ifill:
Perhaps more than any other single pollster, he could tell us where we had come from and where we were headed.
What did we appreciate most about Andy here at the NewsHour? He valued context. As a pollster, he knew the questions mattered. But as an analyst, he knew the answers mattered more. He did not assume ill will of any political party, and had a built-in bias against bias.
He fit right in here, and spent hours with us on election nights and at political conventions making sense of it all. We were so fortunate to have him as part of our family, and we will miss him terribly.
And even in 140 characters, the impact he had on others came through:
RIP Andy Kohut. Thanks for helping us understand American politics so much better, and for your patient willingess to aid reporters like me.
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) September 8, 2015
Andy Kohut was a wonderful, kind and brilliant man. What a loss. https://t.co/ZTjlL6U5MP
— Lizzie O'Leary (@lizzieohreally) September 8, 2015
Andy Kohut: A brilliant man and a wonderful boss and mentor. Such a big loss for all who loved and admired him. pic.twitter.com/eDk13O0zFd
— Kim Parker (@kim_c_parker) September 8, 2015
Andy Kohut was a stellar mentor during my time at Pew. He was a bright light for all (cc @besmonte)
— Jan Lauren Boyles (@JanLaurenB) September 8, 2015
Andy Kohut a great, insightful, big-hearted man. Very sorry to hear of his death. https://t.co/evEDLpNlat
— James Fallows (@JamesFallows) September 8, 2015
— Lee Rainie (@lrainie) September 8, 2015