Exclusive: Fox Pollster Goes Hollywood

“I’m tired of selling reality,” Frank Luntz tells TheWrap. “It’s mean. Divisive. Negative.”

One of politics’ unlikeliest figures has come to Hollywood, looking to change his stripes.


Frank Luntz, the arch-conservative pollster known as the research hammer by which the Gingrich revolution came down hard on President Bill Clinton, wants to take over research for the entertainment industry.


And you thought Arianna Huffington did a quick-switch job?


“I want to replace Joe Farrell,” said Luntz, wandering the halls of the Milken Institute conference on Monday in Beverly Hills, where he was a featured speaker.


Luntz clearly has a lot to learn in Hollywood — including the fact that Farrell of National Research Group retired a number of years ago.


But the pollster and Fox News analyst is serious about making his play. He’s bought a home in Santa Monica and is already doing survey work for Universal’s marketing chief Adam Fogelson and speaking to producers about other projects.


Why would he give up pollstering in American politics — where he has been so successful — for the movies?


Luntz, who sold his company, Luntz Research, to Omnicon in 2005,  said he’s had enough of politics. “I’m tired of selling reality,” he said. “Reality sucks. It’s mean. Divisive. Negative. What Hollywood offers is a chance to create a new reality, in two hours time.”


Luntz, who successfully helped kill the estate tax by recommending Republicans persistently call the proposal a “death tax,” says he has changed with time.


“I’m not as partisan as I once was,” he said. “I don’t like what politics has become.”


He denied having been part of the problem, the culture of political vilification, a reaction to which was the heart of the movement that brought Barack Obama to power.


He said that wasn’t him. “I did the ‘Contract With America,’” he said. “There was no mention of Bill Clinton in that document. And I don’t want to create a 30-second spot that makes people feel like s—.”


Luntz is not sure how he will get along with the arch-liberals of Hollywood. He recalled being hired as a consultant on “West Wing” years ago — and a writer asked him to describe “how Republicans mourn.”


“I’m a science experiment to them,” he said of Hollywood liberals. “I’m an animal in a zoo.”


Nonetheless, Luntz aims to bring Hollywood market research into the 21st century. “It’s hard to stop people from calling it ‘the estate tax’ and start calling it the ‘death tax.’ It’s easier to figure out what to call a film.”