Daniel Franklin's career has spanned three professions over two decades and is propelled by a single quest. "I have always been fascinated by the question of why people think what they think," Franklin says, "and why they change their minds."
That's the basis of his work today with the Benenson Strategy Group, a Washington polling and consulting firm, where last month Franklin was named a principal. He will continue advising clients while taking on a heavier share of internal responsibilities.
"The simplest way of putting it is, we have a range of clients who have questions about how they should proceed on important strategic challenges, given the state of public opinion," he says. "My job is to figure out what is the best way to proceed."
Franklin, 39, started at Benenson in 2006 and has had a busy five years since then. He was lead pollster for Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and New York Comptroller Tom Napoli, as well as for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's independent expenditure campaigns in 2006, 2008, and 2010. He worked for lead pollster Joel Benenson on the team that conducted polling and communications research for Barack Obama's presidential campaign. In addition, Franklin has done work for a number of corporate and nonprofit clients ranging from the National Football League and the New York State Public Service Commission to T-Mobile and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Early in his career, Franklin's interest in what makes people tick manifested itself as a love for journalism. A native of Dayton, Ohio, he recalls being intrigued from a young age by the newspaper world.
"I remember my eyes just getting wide at the thrill of watching newspaper [printing presses]," he says. "It was beautiful, and it really got to me. I totally fell in love with it."
Franklin spent his undergraduate years at Columbia as an editor at his college newspaper, The Spectator, and landed as a writer and editor for the Washington Monthly after graduating. He has also freelanced for Time Magazine, USA Today, Slate, Mother Jones, and The American Prospect, but has at several points in his career felt compelled to get off the sidelines. "I loved being a journalist, but I always felt that I wanted to be not just reporting on the decisions being made but also contributing to them," Franklin says. The impulse led him to work as a speechwriter for Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend from 1996 to 2001 and for Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle in 2002 and 2003.
The world of polling and strategic consulting held a special appeal because it combined the skills he had learned as a journalist and a speechwriter -- allowing him to get into people's heads and put that information to good use. He is currently based in Manhattan.
"When I am able to conduct a focus group with ordinary people on economic issues or social issues or even something as simple as a product, I can understand how people are living; that's fascinating," Franklin says. "It is extraordinary to be in the ring when important things are being discussed and determined."