Donald S. Kellermann dies at 83; led Times Mirror research group

Donald S. Kellermann, who brought a new depth to opinion polling on politics, public policy and the media as founding director of the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press, died Tuesday of liver cancer at his home in Washington, D.C. He was 83.

His death was confirmed by Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, which now runs the Times Mirror Center as the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Kellermann was head of corporate public affairs for Times Mirror Co., the now-defunct parent company of The Times, when he conceived of a research organization that would provide a more sophisticated analysis of public attitudes than was offered at the time by the major public opinion survey groups. He began running polls in 1985 and five years later became the first director of the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press.

Kohut, a former president of the Gallup Organization, said Kellermann pioneered studies of the electorate that classified voters not only according to their party affiliations but by their values as well. He also started a comprehensive series of surveys about the way the public regards the press, the first of which documented the media's growing credibility problem. Another survey, in 1990, hinted at troubles ahead for newspapers, finding that the under-30 generation "knows less, cares less and reads newspapers less" than any generation in the previous 50 years.

He also oversaw a groundbreaking 1991 survey called "The Pulse of Europe," which gauged the personal and political attitudes of Europeans in 13 countries at the end of the Cold War. Such research has continued through the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

Kellermann was a longtime journalist who began his career at Newsday, where he provoked his own arrest in order to investigate conditions in the Nassau County, N.Y., jail. Those stories led him to CBS News, where he oversaw a wide range of programs, including interviews with poet Robert Frost and Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. He also was director of cultural programming for National Educational Television, the forerunner of the Public Broadcasting Service.

He shifted to politics in the 1970s as chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R-N.Y.), with whom he wrote "Who Makes War," a 1973 book about tensions between the executive and legislative branches over the authority to declare war.

Kellermann joined Times Mirror in 1980 and founded its Washington corporate office. He retired as director of the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press in 1992. He was a Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government in 1995.

He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Joan; two daughters, Carol and Lynn; a sister; and two grandchildren.