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Celinda Lake: A Woman Making History

March 17, 2010

30 Women Making History In recognition of the 30th anniversary of Women’s History Month, Women’s Media Center is profiling 30 extraordinary women making history. Our goal is to raise $10,000 to support WMC Exclusives — every dollar raised will go directly toward hiring women writers to comment on major news stories and report topics often neglected by the mainstream media. Will you contribute $30? Click here to donate: or text WOMEN to 50555 to make a $10 donation. Celinda Lake: A Woman Making History by Jehmu Greene

If you want to know what women care about, who you gonna call?  Celinda Lake!


In 1996, I got my first job in DC at the Center for Policy Alternatives. It was there that I met pollster Celinda Lake. The Center’s president, Linda Tarr-Whelan (recent author of must-read Women Lead the Way: Your Guide to Stepping Up to Leadership and Changing the World), had just commissioned Celinda to ask young Americans what policy solutions they wanted from their politicians. I was new to the pollster world at the time; I didn’t know a confidence interval from a sampling error. (Do you?) But by working with Celinda, I quickly became familiar with the value and art of polling. Though I too at times have criticized polling, her work demonstrated to me the power of focus groups & polls and the valuable role they play in politics. Public opinion polls allow for the voice of the people to be heard as loudly as super-funded special interest groups.


Described as “arguably the most important woman in her field,” Celinda today serves as the president of Lake Research Partners. Her impressive clientele list over the course of her career has boasted such prominent organizations as the Sierra Club, the AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood, the Kaiser Family Foundation, the AARP, and the Democratic National Committee. In addition to working for three presidential campaigns, Celinda has served as the chief pollster for a slew of senators, representatives, and governors. Celinda’s expertise even transcended continents when she advised fledgling countries like Bosnia and South Africa on political development.


But besides being an inspiring leader in an overwhelmingly male-dominated field, Celinda holds the rank of go-to advisor for crucial women’s issues and prominent women candidates. She has helped place numerous female candidates in office, including Patricia Madrid – the first Hispanic woman Attorney General in New Mexico – and Carol Moseley-Braun – the first African-American woman elected to the United States Senate. Celinda has also been recognized for her noteworthy research and writing on women’s political demands, most notably in her book What Women Really Want – another must-read. With Celinda’s efforts to strengthen women’s political representation, I am confident the percentage of women’s composition in Congress (currently at a pathetic 17%) will continue to grow.


For all these reasons and more, Celinda Lake is making history for us all, one poll at a time.