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Charles Backstrom, a University of Minnesota political science professor who was a pioneer in political surveys, died of complications of Parkinson's disease on Sept. 4 in Arden Hills.

The longtime Minneapolis resident, who more recently had lived in Arden Hills, was 81.

He served at the university for 35 years, retiring in 1996.

In 1964, Backstrom identified 100 voter precincts that would represent the statewide vote after extensive data gathering and analysis. His research would lead to instant polling on Election Day.

He wrote for his family: "It came in as one of the most accurate projectors of outcome, within 1 percent, and projected state voting totals like never before."

After World War II ended, Backstrom, serving in the Army, guarded notorious Nazi war criminals such as Hermann Göring, Albert Speer and Joachim von Ribbentrop, during the Nuremberg war-crimes trials in Germany.

He earned a bachelor's degree from Moorhead State University in 1949, and a master's degree in 1953 and Ph.D. in 1956, both from the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

After a teaching stint in Michigan, he served a fellowship in Congress, working with Sen. Hubert Humphrey.

He also applied his polling skills to Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign and Don Fraser's race for Minneapolis mayor.

"He was a consistent supporter in my campaigns," Fraser said. "Early on, he invented a way for us to conduct an informal poll to give us a reading on how we were doing. I always thought of him as a kind of a political scientist who was dealing with the real world of politics."

He was also an expert on redistricting, the changing of political boundaries as a result of population changes, said Leonard Robins of Minnetonka, a former graduate student of Backstrom's and a retired professor of political science at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

With Robins, he wrote a book on the politics of HIV-AIDS.

John Sullivan, a professor of political science at the University of Minnesota, was an undergraduate student of Backstrom's. In the classroom, he was a "tough" teacher, Sullivan said. "If you paid attention to what he said, there was a whole lot of wisdom and insight."

For 37 years, he sang in the choir of the Prospect Park United Methodist Church in Minneapolis. He and his wife, Barbara, of Shoreview, opened their home to families whose children had come to the Twin Cities for long-term hospitalization.

In addition to his wife of 51 years, he is survived by two sons, Paul of Kirkland, Wash., and Brian of Valley Falls, N.Y.; two daughters, Anne Brown of Vadnais Heights and Claudia Hornibrook of Bloomington; four sisters, Faye Donart of Phoenix, Kelly Swanson of San Jose, Calif., Rita MacKenzie of St. Louis Park, and Sharon Backstrom of Rochester, Mich.; a brother, Donald of Cridersville, Ohio, and seven grandchildren.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Prospect Park United Methodist Church, 22 Orlin Av. SE, Minneapolis.