11/5: A Nod to Democracy

By Barbara Carvalho

With all the political spin, polarization, and cynicism that accompanies much of the chatter about Campaign 2012, it’s easy to lose sight of what Election Day represents.  At the Marist Poll at Marist College, the election season (which seems to get longer and longer) is a time to engage our students and provide a “laboratory” to understand democracy in action.

Since last fall, more than 500 Marist College undergraduates spoke first hand to voters across the country about their views on the presidential election, the economy, foreign policy and important issues and events of the day.  As part of our partnership with NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, these students also got to focus their efforts on first, the opinions of voters in Republican primary states and, then, voters in nine critical battleground states.

In collaboration with the McClatchy News Service, we spoke to Americans about their hopes, concerns, and solutions for solving many problems facing the country.  We found a consensus of values and a multiplicity of solutions.  But, more importantly, agreement that compromise was needed and attainable.

All told, over 100,000 people across the nation took the time, one by one, to share their experiences, opinions, and intentions.  We are grateful.  Although polls are often characterized as villainess inanimate objects for political spin, we and our students know and have a connection with the spirited and very real individuals from all walks of life who participated in sharing their thoughts.

We also value transparency.  The Marist Poll team worked tirelessly to make sure all the survey information, toplines, internals, and methods were detailed and accessible.  If we missed something, survey questions were answered and information provided.  But, with transparency comes responsibility.  A warning to those who choose to use transparency to distort:  a knowledgeable public will not tolerate such mischaracterizations for long.  We will continue to explain, inform, and hopefully enlighten.

So, thank you to all who participated in this statistical chronicle of Campaign 2012.  Regardless of whether or not your candidate won, we hope you will continue to be energized to speak your opinions and make your voice heard.  To quote President Lincoln, “Public sentiment is everything.  With public sentiment, nothing can fail.  Without it, nothing can succeed.”  That’s how democracy works!