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Joe Belden, at 90, polling pioneer

WASHINGTON -- Joe Belden, a leader in the field of survey research who pioneered statewide polling, has died of Parkinson's disease.

His daughter, Nancy, who is a partner in an opinion research firm, said Mr. Belden died Thursday in Washington. He was 90 years old.

Mr. Belden was an early practitioner of survey research who started the Texas Poll in 1940 and set up Mexico's first radio and television rating system.

After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in the 1930s, where he studied the scientific sampling of public opinion, Mr. Belden corresponded with George Gallup and other pioneers in survey research and drew upon that advice when he conducted the Texas Poll.

He founded Belden Associates in 1941, but interrupted his career to serve in World War II. He served as a Navy officer in Panama and Washington. In 1947, he established a company in Mexico, where he used opinion surveys to create a radio and television rating system.

After returning to Texas in 1948, his firm did some of the earliest work in market research for newspapers, helping editors understand their readers' preferences.

Mr. Belden was born in 1915 in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Mexico's border. Mr. Belden's parents were Mexican, and he began learning English at 9.

In addition to his daughter, a resident of Washington, he leaves his wife, Eugenia; two sons, Joseph of Washington, and Tom of Merchantville, N.J.; and three grandchildren.

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