In Memoriam: Dr. David Pollock
Washington, D.C. - The Washington Institute for Near East Policy extends its deepest condolences to the family of Dr. David Pollock, 73, who passed away yesterday after a long illness. A world-renowned expert in public opinion polling in the Middle East, Dr. Pollock was the Institute’s Bernstein Fellow and longtime director of its Fikra Forum.
“David was a remarkably versatile scholar-practitioner who made a tremendous impact on U.S. foreign policy as a teacher, U.S. government official, and Washington Institute expert,” said Segal Executive Director Robert Satloff, the Howard P. Berkowitz Chair in U.S. Middle East Policy. “David’s legacy is monumental. He will be dearly missed as a brilliant analyst, generous colleague, and a devoted friend.”
With bachelor’s and doctorate degrees from Harvard, David’s policy work was firmly rooted in the foundation of his academic training. As a visiting lecturer at Harvard and assistant professor at George Washington University, he taught Middle East history and policy to hundreds of students who went on to distinguished careers in government and academia.
David began his government career in 1986 as chief of Near East/South Asia/Africa research at the U.S. Information Agency, where he supervised the government's study of public opinion, elite attitudes, and media content across the three regions. From 1996 to 2001, he served in several other State Department policy advisory positions covering South Asia and the Middle East, including four years as regional expert on the secretary of state's Policy Planning Staff.
In 2002, David was named senior advisor for the Broader Middle East at the State Department, where he provided policy advice on issues of democracy and reform in the region, with a focus on women's rights. He also helped launch the department's $15-million Iraqi Women's Democracy Initiative and the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council, working directly with advocates across the Middle East.
Throughout his government career, David traveled frequently across the Middle East, meeting with officials, dissidents, and everyday citizens. A brilliant linguist, he was comfortable speaking with people of all backgrounds from Morocco, to Jerusalem, to Iraq.
David brought this wealth of experience and broad network of contacts to the Institute in 2007 when he took responsibility for the Institute’s incipient Arabic-language program and pioneered its polling initiative. Under David’s direction, the Institute created an Arabic language website and vastly expanded its Fikra Forum, a bilingual English-Arabic blog that gives voice to diverse Middle East writers who often cannot publish openly in their native countries. The website and Fikra Forum provide the Institute’s scholarship to Arabic speakers who may not otherwise have access to top-notch policy-related research.
A pioneer in Middle East polling, David devised and executed polls that assessed popular opinion in Arabic-speaking countries across the Middle East. His polls often appended political questions to generic market research studies to lessen the chance that respondents would be deterred by their content. The results — hotly sought after by U.S. official and regional governments alike — were often cited by international media. Indeed, his final poll of Saudi attitudes in the wake of the Hamas-Israel war was featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other leading outlets in the last month.
Fluent in Arabic, Hebrew, and Kurdish, and an articulate communicator, David was a frequent guest on Middle East and U.S. media outlets, explaining U.S. policy to the Middle East, and Middle East affairs to American audiences.
“David’s breadth, depth, and unique talents cannot be overstated. His passing is a loss to his family, to the Institute, and to the vast community of those ardently pursuing a peaceful, democratic Middle East,” said Satloff.
David is survived by wife Judy Kirpich, son Max and wife Leslie Frey, and daughter Jody and husband Adolfo Patrón.