Experiencing the Election
There are many who can't wait for the endless requests to participate in a "short political survey." Yet a group of Queens students will be asking the questions this election night, and they're excited about the prospect of living what they are learning.
Exit polling for the November 2012 election has been incorporated into three classes this term. Dr. Commins' "Protest, Polls, and Politics" course, a research methods class for political science majors, and a public relations course in the Knight School.
While the other courses are regularly in the course catalog, Commins designed her class "to take advantage of the dual election events in Charlotte this fall." Students teamed up with psychology and sociology faculty and students to survey people protesting at the Democratic National Convention. Their goal was to learn
"what types of people engage in political protest and what issues are of most concern to them," Commins said. "The students were fascinated by the protesters they met - some quite 'out there' to the students."
Then, on election day, students will survey voters to compare voter responses with what they learned about protesters. That night, students will be in the Knight-Crane Convergence Lab to tabulate and share results with local media.
These courses have helped the students understand the centrality of polling. "This is the bread and butter of American politics," Commins said. "The students' sense of the possibilities of political action and involvement is so much greater now. I hope that they will think more seriously about their obligations and opportunities as citizens."
Taking the class during an election year definitely added an edge for at least one student. "We have so much more real data to work with," said Lauren Hooper. "I've learned about how much goes into the behind the scenes work in polling. You can't just think of a question and throw it out there. You really have to think about what you're asking and who you're asking."
Hooper now takes surveys more seriously. She says everyone "should know the awesome experience they can gain from completing a survey. It's a great opportunity."