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Nov.19, 2008

Vol. 109, No. 5


Leo P. Crespi *42

Published in the Nov.19, 2008, issue

Leo P. Crespi, who spent 32 years directing public-opinion research for the U.S. Information Agency, died July 8, 2008. He was 91.

Crespi graduated summa cum laude from UCLA in 1938, and in 1942 earned a Ph.D. in psychology from Princeton. Before joining the USIA in 1954, he had taught psychology at Princeton. In 1947, he published in Public Opinion Quarterly a survey wherein he proposed a ban on tipping because he believed it was used to deny a fair wage to workers. An eccentric himself, he had no problem implementing his academic research, as he was notoriously frugal and never ate out. During his earlier research at Princeton, he wore checkered zoot suits to the lab so the mice would recognize him instantly.

At the USIA, he specialized in public-opinion research focused on Western Europe. In 1960, he supervised a survey of British and French public opinion of the United States and Russia that was leaked to The New York Times. Because it supported remarks by the Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John F. Kennedy, that U.S. prestige abroad was declining, the survey took on greater political significance.

Crespi’s wife, Virginia, died in 1993. He is survived by three sons and one grandson.

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