New initiative brings Quinnipiac Poll into classrooms

Krystal Miller, Staff Writer

Quinnipiac University students can now take classes about data analysis, market opinion, research and reporting that incorporate the Quinnipiac University National Poll.

The Quinnipiac Signature Polling Experience launched this spring as a way to implement the Quinnipiac Poll into existing courses to teach students about the polling process firsthand. This semester, Political Psychology and Public Opinion and Marketing Research are the courses involved in the Quinnipiac initiative.

“It was inspired by President (Judy) Olian, who wanted to find ways for the poll to enrich the academic experiences of the students, and then I worked with Provost (Debra) Liebowitz,” said Doug Schwartz, associate vice president of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “She and I partnered in coming up with an actual program to implement.”

Illustration by Sean Formantes

The Quinnipiac Signature Polling Experience is multidisciplinary with courses in media studies, marketing and political science. The poll conducts public opinion surveys on politics and current issues with national and state polls. There will be a media studies course on political communication in the fall along with the political and marketing courses.

Scott McLean, professor of political science, said the idea started with discussions on raising the profile of Quinnipiac and the polling institute because it is well-known and respected.

“We wanted to find ways for the polling institute to have more of a relationship with our students and with the education that students receive at Quinnipiac,” McLean said.

The Quinnipiac Poll team includes polling analysts Tim Malloy and Mary Snow. Schwartz said their mission is to be as timely and as accurate as possible.

“Our goal is really about understanding why people think the way they do, and tracking trends,” Schwartz said. “Doing a more in-depth analysis of why people think or feel the way they do.”

McLean teaches Political Psychology and

Public Opinion. The course covers survey design, how polls are conducted, statistical analysis and how the poll communicates with the mass media and news media.

“This is a course that is focused on the interrelationship between politics and polling, it’s designed to give Quinnipiac students a real opportunity to see the workings of a major United States polling organization,” McLean said.

Jensen Wilson, a senior political science major, who has taken McLean’s class, said the public opinion is essential to allow political campaigns to measure the candidate’s favorability and determine the most important issues of the electorate.

“From taking this course, I learned how to be a critical viewer of polls,” Wilson said. “When analyzing polls, it is important to determine whether it is trustworthy and accurately represents public opinion.”

Tilottama Ghosh Chowdhury, associate professor of marketing, teaches the marketing research class. The course helps students plan, collect, and analyze data to solve market research problems, as well as conducting surveys and experiments.

“The course is about understanding the logistics, the process of trying to understand the market research problem, then planning a data collection based on the research hypotheses, and finally trying to learn about different tools by which you are, for example, conducting a survey,” Ghosh Chowdhury said.

Liv Distefano, a sophomore marketing major, has taken Ghosh Chowdhury’s class. She said she learned how to formulate and understand experimental designs, different types of interviews and surveys, polls and how to analyze problems within different companies in the course.

“I think this course is important because it educates a person about how to better understand the marketplace to gain the most success from a business standpoint,” Distefano said. “This course adapts to the changes in society and focuses on relevancy of trends to understand certain data and understand consumer behavior.”

Christine Lupo, a sophomore marketing and business analytics major who took marketing

research, found the incorporation of the Quinnipiac Poll into the course beneficial to students.

“It is a resource other schools do not offer, which makes Quinnipiac stand out in academic excellence,” Lupo said. “Gaining new knowledge has allowed me to view the process differently and see the hard work that goes into it.”

Schwartz said these courses go beyond the textbook, which is what makes it distinctive.

“This is a program that really distinguishes Quinnipiac from other universities, because (students) are getting this real world hands-on experience of seeing what it’s like to actually conduct a poll,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said one class talked about deciding what to poll on and the process of producing an accurate poll. There have also been people in interviewer operations at Quinnipiac

Poll talking to students about how to collect data and polling analysts talking about how to report the results of findings to news media.

“Several of our goals, basically, is to give a behind the scenes look at how a national poll conducts polls and we’ve provided our various experts to talk to students in those classes,” Schwartz said.

The meetings have been done through Zoom, with three different class sections being able to interact with members of the Quinnipiac Poll.

The week before spring break, Snow and Malloy spoke in Wilson’s class about how the Quinnipiac Poll interacts with the media.

“It is a great opportunity to hear from professionals and learn about how the organization conducts their polls,” Wilson said.