The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute is one of the most popular places to work on campus.
The 75 to 100 students employed at the institute conduct surveys by telephone. The students work anywhere from three to six night shifts a week, calling prospective interviewees both in the tri-state area as well as nationwide.
The poll questions concern issues in the news, politics and other subjects of public interest.
According to the Polling Institute’s Web site, their mission is to conduct public opinion polls “as a public service and for academic research.”
Dan Herlihy, manager of computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) at the Polling Institute, added that the Institute also exists “to make the whole country know who Quinnipiac is.”
Polling stations are about two feet wide and consist of a telephone, headset, computer monitor and keyboard.
Interviewers make 100 to 250 calls a night. The average completed survey totals range from six to 12 per worker. Although those numbers may seem low, many lines dialed are either busy or disconnected, and people are often not home to answer the phone.
When a call is answered, the interviewer reads a script. This script explains what the poll is, where the polling center is located, and what interest the recipient may have in taking the poll. The end of the script concludes with the birthday method.
The birthday method, a process of respondent randomization, is necessary because studies show that women are more likely to answer the phone than men. With this method, the person chosen to take the poll must be at least 18 years of age and have the next upcoming birthday in the household.
Some respondents are rude or hang up before the interviewer finishes reading the script. Some become annoyed and yell at the interviewer.
“You get used to getting yelled at. After a while, it doesn’t bother you anymore,” said Greg Cohen, a former Polling Institute employee and a senior history major in the M.A.T program.
If the person chosen by the birthday method is available and chooses to complete the survey, the questions appear on the screen one after the other. A survey can take five to ten minutes to complete. Most questions are multiple choice, although some are open ended.
Students feel that there are benefits to working at the poll. Cohen said that working there gives him “experience in the front lines of a political battle.”
“I do it because I want to be in politics, and I figure if I know what’s going on in American minds, I can shape my course as a future political candidate,” Cohen said.
Former Polling Institute employee Brad Klein, a senior print journalism major, agrees. “I gain insight on how people feel about different political situations depending on the state they live in, what they like and dislike about [that] state and the different politicians within the state, as well as on a national level,” he said.