Posted by: lcowie | October 29, 2008

Elon University Poll

Elon University Poll shapes policy in NC

by Lesley Cowie

Elon students must sign up to conduct the poll. Spots generally fill quickly.

Elon students must sign up to conduct the poll. Spots generally fill quickly.

Political science students have made their mark in North Carolina. By helping conduct the Elon University Poll, students are helping legislators effectively update public policy in the state.

“What’s really interesting about our poll is that lawmakers all over North Carolina pay attention to our polls,” Mileah Kromer, assistant director of the Elon University Poll, said. “The results we get have really helped shape public policy. In a way, that makes them [the students] part of the policy process.”

Students have the opportunity to sign up to be pollsters three times a semester. The poll, directed by Dr. Hunter Bacot, gauges North Carolinians’ opinions about current issues, public policy and political views.

According to Kromer, many professors in the political science department assign their students to participate in the Elon Poll, either for extra credit or as a requirement.

“Some of the upper-level classes require at least a session or two of polling from our students,” Kromer said. “For the most part, students will come once or twice for the classroom experience, the requirement. We find students coming back to poll again and again and again.”

To work for the poll, students must sign up for a particular session in the Ella Darden and Elmon Lee Gray Pavilion. Often, a sign-up sheet for alternates is available for students.

“We hope that students want to do it because we encourage engaged learning here on campus,” Kromer said.

Once the regular list fills up, students must sign up under the alternates list. In order to participate in the poll, these students must show up for the poll in the event that a registered student has not signed in.

Once the regular list fills up, students must sign up under the alternates list. In order to participate in the poll, these students must show up for the poll in the event that a registered student has not signed in.

Students conduct the Elon Poll by telephone. Corresponding computers randomly select phone numbers for the students to dial, which include both home and cell phone numbers.

Registered pollsters undergo brief training before they begin their four-hour shift. In order to reach the most number of respondents, the poll usually runs from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Kromer said she and Bacot research potential topics for the poll in part by monitoring the legislative Web site for the North Carolina General Assembly.

“We base our poll around different issues that are coming up for vote and things that are frequently discussed in political blogs,” she said. “We try to really set the political agenda, but we do address issues that are discussed at the national level as well.”

Bacot’s public opinion polling class assists in the creation, selection and perfection of questions. According to Kromer, sometimes Bacot assigns his class different topic areas and the students create 10 or 15 questions each. From there, she said, they pick and choose the best questions.

Past topics for the poll include immigration, minimum wage, state lottery and toll roads in North Carolina.

Kromer noted that the poll has given Elon University a great deal of press.
“We’ve been picked up by USA Today,” Kromer said. “Recently Dr. Bacot was quoted in The New York Times.”

The next polling session will take place Oct. 27-30.

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