protestors using bull horns to shout at each other

Splitting Apart: American Polarization, Part 1

This is part one of a two-part series on polarization in America. This post focuses on Americans' views on, and roles in, polarization. Part two addresses the systemic causes of polarization that result from our ... Read Now >


2/20: A “Fair” Assessment

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

It might be said that in polling you get what you ask for.  That’s the case in the word choice of questions that measure the approval rating of an elected official.  Different polling organizations use different approaches.  For more than three decades, The Marist Poll, has relied upon a four-point question asking respondents to pick from “excellent, good, fair, or poor.”  “Excellent” and “good” in this measure are combined as a positive score.

caricature of Lee Miringoff

In the interest of transparency, all of our poll results are released publicly sometimes creating a poll-watchers give-and-take.  This is the case in the minor dust-up in our latest NYC measure of Mayor Bloomberg.  Some have argued that our measure undercounts how well the mayor is doing because some voters who say “fair” have a positive view of his job performance.

Several points need to be made.  First, we recognize that many voters who believe that Mayor Bloomberg is doing a “fair” job would tell us, if asked, they “approve” of his job performance.  Therefore, on a two-point approve-disapprove question, his job performance would be scored somewhat higher than it is on our four-point measure. But, a two-point measure, which includes some “fair” responses as positive, represents exceedingly tepid support for the mayor and nothing you would want to build a campaign around if you are seeking to replace him next year.  It inflates his standing for 2013 beyond his campaign value.

Second, an approval rating with a four-point measure offers a look at the intensity of voters’ views… the “excellents” and the “poors.”  And, because of our long history of polling New York public officials, we can provide trend data on this question.  Third, the combined “excellent” and “good” responses can serve as a barometer of an office holder’s re-election prospects.

In the case of Mayor Bloomberg this election year, it’s a useful way to assess the potential impact of his endorsement or whether a candidate is helped or harmed by being too closely identified with him.  The results from this Marist Poll of Mayor Blomberg’s approval rating is 50%.  In fact, when New Yorkers are asked specifically whether his endorsement would make them more likely to vote for a candidate, 36% say “yes” and 44% say “no.”

The Mayor need not apologize for a decent approval rating as he approaches a dozen years in office.  But, these numbers suggest that candidates this year will not be running on the mantle of anything that resembles making their election Bloomberg’s fourth term.  Among the Democrats, City Council Speaker Quinn will need to deftly pick and choose from the city’s accomplishments.  For the other Democratic candidates, it requires them to both try to tie Quinn to the mayor while separating themselves from the pack of alternatives. The mayor’s influence is not much different for candidates vying for the Republican nomination.  It’s Rudy Giuliani’s endorsement that matters for the GOP nod.

2/20: From Undergrad to Grad: A Different Perspective from The Marist Poll

Mike Conte has a unique insight into The Marist Poll.  As an undergraduate, the now 23-year-old Conte had a successful tenure at The Marist Poll.  And, while he received his bachelor’s degree in business marketing from Marist College last spring, Conte is back at the Institute, working as a graduate assistant while he pursues his MBA.

Michael Conte

As a high school student, the Connecticut native always envisioned himself sitting in a corner office in a large skyscraper someday.  But, he never thought he would become a political enthusiast.  While Conte acknowledges a mild interest in politics before attending Marist College, he attributes the spark to his time at the Institute.

“I was broke.  Every night I volunteered to work…and a lot was the Obama-McCain [race],” he recalls.

So, why then pursue a job at The Marist Poll?  For Conte, the initial appeal was that near universal factor that unites many college students – money.  But, beyond the financial component, Conte saw an added benefit to The Marist Poll.  It was a way to expand his circle of friends.

“It’s a great place.  There are so many kids who work here from different majors, also, not just one.  So, you really just meet a diversity of different students,” he states.

Additionally, Conte recognized the possibility for advancement at the poll.  Once inside the door, he quickly rose through the ranks at the Institute.  He volunteered for extra shifts, got to know The Marist Poll staff, and soon applied for position of supervisor.  And when he was offered the higher position of Poll Assist instead, a pleasantly surprised Conte, jumped at the chance.  The position, which requires working in the Marist Poll office, allowed him the opportunity to gain knowledge of the inner workings of The Marist Poll.  At the time, the, then, undergrad was working a second on-campus job, but left in order to devote more time to The Marist Poll.  It was a position Conte would hold from sophomore year until he graduated.

But, why return to the Marist Poll after graduation?  For Conte, it was a realization he had before his senior year.  In the summer of 2011, Conte interned at a large retail corporation.  Despite the lucrative financial opportunities such a position would provide, it lacked one very important thing.

“I just realized it was a good life.  It was good money, but it wasn’t what I was personally interested in,” Conte reveals.  “I realized I actually work at a place at school that I’m truly interested in the subject material.”

As for Conte’s professional aspirations after he receives his degree, Conte hopes to find employment in marketing or survey research at a large firm.  Not one to sit by the sidelines, the 23-year-old pictures himself at a company with lots of room for advancement.  And, he believes his time at The Marist Poll has prepared him well for those future endeavors.

“I think just the amount of background that I now have in research itself will definitely help me to be more of an attractive candidate so I won’t just be a resume in a stack,” Conte asserts.  “I will be a resume with real, true life experience in the field I am applying for, and all that experience came from The Marist Poll.”

In the meantime, this graduate assistant is content drawing upon his undergraduate experiences to help advance the goals of the Institute.  Conte says he often acts as an intermediary between the current undergraduate students and the full-time Marist Poll staff.  And, he offers one important piece of advice to those incoming freshman who are just learning about The Marist Poll.

“Just have a good attitude about it and know that you will get out of it what you [put] into it.”


1/29: Sports Roundup

By John Sparks

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?  Although it’s the eve of the Super Bowl, for those whose passion is baseball it’s a matter of days until pitchers and catchers report.  The Marist Poll’s John Sparks chats with sports journalist and Marist Poll Contributor Len Berman about this year’s prospects for the Yankees, Mets, and Len’s predictions for Super Bowl XLVII.

Listen to the interview or read the transcript below.

Listen to part 1:

What a world we live in.  We’ve got a Heisman contender with a fake dying girlfriend.  The NCAA investigating itself in the University of Miami football mess.  Hockey players back on the ice.  Sammy Sosa thinks he and McGwire belong in Cooperstown although this year no one was elected to the Hall of Fame, and there’s excitement in Baltimore for the first time since Johnny Unitas as the Ravens prepare for a Super Bowl.  Now, I was talking with Marist contributor Carl Leubsdorf yesterday.  He thinks that the Washington Nationals will win the World Series.  So, there’s excitement INSIDE the Beltway.  Let’s quickly talk a little baseball.  First of all American League East.  Am I nuts or do the Yankees seem to be out of it in trying to build a contender this year?

Len Berman

Well, you know, John, I’m one of those people who think that this could be the year the Yankees don’t make the playoffs.  I mean they have this self-imposed salary cap.  Now, you wonder if they’ll ever be able to help themselves when it comes to spending money because over the years they’ve always outspent everybody.  But, what happens if they really do keep to that salary cap?  All of a sudden smarts will enter into the equation, and the Yankees have always been accused of being smart with their checkbook, as opposed to being smart with their brains.  So, that remains to be seen.  I think Toronto have improved themselves.  The Orioles are certainly an exciting young group, and I just wonder if this is the year it all falls apart for the Yankees. You know, people refer to 1965 as the watershed year for the Yankees when the dynasty ended.  Maybe, 2013 is the latter day 1965.

John Sparks
What’s the deal with the Steinbrenner boys?  They certainly aren’t like the old man.

Len Berman
Well, but that’s, that’s good and bad.  I mean George was so tempestuous and flew by the seat of his pants.  But, he was certainly entertaining, and he’s missed from that standpoint.  I don’t know if…  Well, maybe he would have given Alex Rodriguez that God awful contract that his kids had doled out.  But, that’s going to be an albatross hanging around their necks for years to come unless they can somehow unload him.  But, I wouldn’t sell the boys short.  They’re certainly astute business-wise, and they want to face the new reality of $189 million dollar salary caps.  So let’s, you know, the jury is out on the boys.

John Sparks

You mentioned A-Rod.  And, aren’t steroids really the cause of all his physical problems?  And, if so, isn’ there any way they can dump him?

Len Berman

No.  I don’t think so.  I don’t know if it’s the cause. You certainly have to feel suspect.  He did take steroids.  He admitted to some of it.  So, you wonder.  You know, like I tell my kids, if you lie once, you lie every time. So, just because he admitted to taking it for a couple of years doesn’t mean he really took it a lot longer.  I wonder about that relationship with Dr. Galea, the disgraced Canadian doctor.  I wonder what his involvement was.  So, yeah there are a lot of open questions about A-Rod, and I don’t know if, if the steroids caused everything. Now, what was the second part of the question?

John Sparks

Well, I just wondered if the Yankees could not turn him loose…

Len Berman

Right.  Well, I think they looked hard into that when they had the problem with Jason Giambi.  And, I think their lawyers came up and said no because Giambi signed under false pretenses, and then he was caught up in steroids.  So, my guess is that just because someone’s involved in steroids, doesn’t mean you can dump a contract.  That doesn’t mean they won’t try, but I don’t think they would be successful.

Listen to part 2:

Let’s look at the rest of the league.  American League West?  Angels, Rangers, and now, we’ve got the Houston Astros.  What do you think there?

Len Berman

Well, I’m not counting on the Houston Astros to provide much other than a punching bag.  You know, I hope Seattle improves a little.  You always have to worry about the Angels.  And then you know, Oakland seems to do it with mirrors every year.  And then, Texas still has talent.  That’s a loaded division.  And, that could be the division that knocks the Yankees out.  In other words, if you have extra wild cards coming from the West, I think the Yankees would be in trouble.  So, I think you know, I think you’re strong on the coasts.  The middle of the country, I’m not so sure of in the American League.

John Sparks

Well, you have the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central with Justin Verlander.  Are they going to repeat in the Central?

Len Berman

Well, I think it’s hard to repeat.  I mean I’m more excited by Cabrerra to see what he does coming off his triple crown year.  You know, Kansas City’s out there lurking, you know, improving bit by bit.  But, you had some, you had probably the worst teams in the American League all bunched up in the Central, and you know I don’t know if the White Sox… you know, I guess Detroit would have to be considered the favorite because when you look at the rest of the division I’m not sure there’s much competition there.

Listen to part 3:

Let’s go to the senior circuit.  The Dodgers, now, are Major League Baseball’s top spenders outspending the Yankees.  Will it bring Don Mattingly a trip to the World Series that he never experienced in pinstripes?

Len Berman 

Yeah.  I hope so.  I’m a big Don Mattingly fan.  And, I think with all the money infused, and they’re about to sign their new whopping television deal so there’ll be even more money in it.  I don’t think they’re afraid of any kind of salary cap.   San Francisco you have to just tip your cap.  They’ve won two out of three.  And you know, so they’ll give them the competition there.  But I, secretly I’m pulling for the Dodgers.  I love Mattingly.  I think he’s one of the classiest guys baseball’s ever seen, and I hope, I hope they get him to a World Series.

John Sparks

Indeed.  Let’s go to the National League East.  Mets or Mutts?  Will they ever regain their past glory?

Len Berman

Well, the Mets are struggling.  And I, you know, I was with some of their team executives the other night.  And, you know, their mantra is we’re not as bad as people think we are.  Well, that’s one hell of a catch phrase.  You know, in their division, they’re dealing with three very, very good teams.  I mean, I think your friend who likes the Washington Nats has a lot to bank on. I think they are the favorites.  They had the best record last year in all of baseball, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t do just as well this year with their young kids.  Atlanta.  I think that’s a tough, tough team.  And, I think Philadelphia’s going to be better than a .500 club.  So, I think the Mets are going to be buried for the foreseeable future.

John Sparks

Finally, in the National League Central.  No more Astros.  Pirates seem to be arming up, but will the Cardinals repeat?

Len Berman

Well, that’s hard to say.  I think Cincinnati is really the team in the Central.  I like what they’ve got with the live arms out there, and Milwaukee’s better.  You know, they’re lurking.  They’re over .500.  I think… I would like to hope that this is the year Pittsburgh finally goes above .500.  I think they set the North American record for losing seasons.  They flirted with it last year, but didn’t make it.  I like this year, but I still, you know the class of this division is going to be Cincinnati, I think.

Listen to part 4:

Len, I want to go back to this steroids business for just a moment.  Should they be discounted when it comes to baseball’s Hall of Fame?

Len Berman

Well, I think you have to make intelligent choices.  In other words, I think you have to look at each in a case-by-case basis.  I think Sammy Sosa’s nuts.  I think clearly the conventional wisdom is that if not for steroids he would not have done what he did.  Same with Mark McGwire.  So I think you have to discount those two from the Hall of Fame which certainly elevates the candidacy of Roger Maris, but that’s another story.  But, I think what you have to do is say to yourselves, and it’s very difficult because in essence steroid users were cheaters, I think you have to say to yourself would this person have been a hall of famer without steroids.  And, I think, that if you really go down the line, you have to say that Barry Bonds without steroids would have made the Hall of Fame.  And, the same goes for Roger Clemens.  So I think, you know, I think down the road those two deserve to be in.  But heck.  I’ve been, I’ve been campaigning for Pete Rose forever to no avail. So, I think on the field accomplishments are what really counts, and I know there’s an integrity clause when it comes to Major League Baseball, but there are so many scoundrels in the Hall of Fame that, you know, they’ve certainly gone through that loop hole with, with a Mack truck.

John Sparks

Len, we’ve been talking and looking ahead with baseball, but we’re right on the eve of the Super Bowl.  49ers or Ravens?  What do you think?

Len Berman

Well, you know, whatever I choose, I think you should pick the opposite.  I mean I shocked myself by correctly picking the two winners in the championship games.  I picked the two road teams which went against form, and they both won.  There’s something I like about Baltimore.  I like the redemption story.  You know, forget the Harbaughs and forget Ray Lewis.  I like the Flacco story.  I mean here’s a guy who’s been just a, you know, demonized for so long as just being just an average quarterback, and here he is driving the Ravens to the Super Bowl.  They certainly have a much better quarterback than when they won Super Bowl XXXV.  So, I’m gonna, I’m gonna cast my lot with Flacco which means if you’re a betting man you should go and probably bet the house on San Francisco, but I’m gonna, I’m gonna lean towards Baltimore on this one.

John Sparks

Okay, Len.  Finally what’s going on with you these days?  You’re still doing some television.  You’re writing books.  You’ve got your daily e-mail blog.  And, you emceed an event with Yogi the other night.  How’s Yogi doing, and how are you doing?

Len Berman

Yeah.  I’m doing fine.  I’m really enjoying my new life of not working the news every single night.  I have my website and send out a daily e-mail.  And, I’ve written some books.  My latest was “Greatest Moments in Sports—Upsets and Underdogs”.  And, I’m on the Today Show once a month with my Spanning the World feature, and I’m contributing to Channel 5 locally in New York with my Top Five on Channel Five once a week.  So, I’m keeping dabbled so to speak, and I’m going to continue to stay active.

John Sparks

Finally, before we call it quits, how can folks sign up for your blog?

Len Berman

They just go to and I send out a daily e-mail, you know, and there’s no spam involved, and I just give my take on sports. Some of it’s whimsical.  Some of it’s serious.  You know, the whimsical nature I talked about the Orlando sportswriter who said tha we finally know who was sitting in Clint Eastwood’s chair at the Republican Convention.  It was Manti Te’O’s girlfriend.  So, that’s the whimsy aspect, but you know, we have fun with it.  And, some serious issues such as injuries.  Head injuries in football we talked about today.  So, it covers the gamut and we have a lot of fun with it.

John Sparks

Len, You’re the best.  And, it’s always great talking with you.  Thanks for your time, and we look forward to our next visit.

Len Berman

All right.  Thanks, John.

1/25: The Agenda for President Obama’s Second Term

By John Sparks

Since presidents elected to a second term don’t have to worry about re-election, they are freed from political considerations and can press however hard they wish to accomplish their goals.  What are President Obama’s priorities for his second term?  The Marist Poll’s John Sparks talks with political columnist Carl Leubsdorf who writes a weekly column for The Dallas Morning News about President Obama’s agenda items for his second term and the likelihood of them being enacted into law by Congress.

Carl Leubsdorf

Carl Leubsdorf

John Sparks
Carl, President Obama is beginning his second term, and we want to talk about his agenda for his final four years in office.  Do you think that the president feels he has a mandate from the people to achieve his goals?

Carl Leubsdorf

Well, I think the president felt he had a mandate on at least one issue because he mentioned it over and over in the campaign, and that was higher taxes on wealthier Americans.  And, in a sense of course, he’s already gotten some of that in the bill that was passed to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff, and he made clear during that debate that he felt he had gotten a mandate for that, and in fact, he had gotten a mandate for that.  After that, it gets a little fuzzier because it’s not like he went and promised a whole bunch of things in the campaign.  There were certain issues he talked about, and certainly, he feels there’s a national mandate to do something about immigration, and it was sort of interesting because in his inaugural speech the other day, he basically stressed a number of issues that each of which sort of tied to a different part of his electoral coalition.  What he was promising was very close to where he got his votes.  For example, he talked about immigration and that’s for Hispanics.  He talked about expanding gay rights for the lesbian and gay community.  He talked about people shouldn’t be on line to, have to stay in line forever to vote.  That’s a major concern in the African-American community.  So it was sort of like each part of the coalition was getting its due in his speech.  The things that he’s going to push basically fit his electoral coalition.  Now, whether they can get passed is something else again.

John Sparks
Let’s go into some of them, and I want to start off with something we’ve been hearing a lot about in recent days, and that concerns gun control.

Carl Leubsdorf
Well, there are a whole lot of issues in gun control, and Vice-President Biden’s task force recommended, I think, two dozen different actions — some legislative and some administrative.  I think it’s very problematic that he can get much done through legislation, and I think they’re aware of that.  For example, the idea of banning assault weapons which was done during the Clinton Administration, and the law was allowed to expire.  That’s going to be very difficult.  For one thing, you’ve got a number of Democratic senators from more conservative states who are going to be up for re-election in 2014.  They’re going to be reluctant to go forward, and secondly, you’ve got a Republican House that is unalterably opposed to such legislation.  Now, when it comes to legislation for some kind of universal registration and background checks for example, into people who are buying guns, there are now laws that affect background checks, but they’re not complete.  The so-called gun show loophole where people who buy guns at gun shows, not from registered dealers don’t have background checks the way they do when they buy from a registered dealer so I think there’ll be a proposal to tighten that law, and that probably has a better chance of passing.

John Sparks

Let’s go on to some other areas.  In his inaugural address, the president spoke of protecting people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Carl Leubsdorf

Well, he also said that it’s time to make hard choices on the deficit and the future of health programs, and when he talks about the future of health programs, he’s really talking about Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid.  And, the fact is that before Congress gets to any of the subjects that President Obama is most interested in, whether it be immigration or gun control or something in the environmental area, it’s going to have to deal with the budget.  I think it’s possible that the entire issue of cutting Medicare and Social Security will come up again, and President Obama is sort of caught between his promise to, you know, face up to the fiscal realities which requires cuts in those programs or protect the programs totally.

John Sparks

You know, Carl, the president will not be running for another term, but members of the Congress will be.  Now, I’m just curious what you think the affect of politics will be on shaping revisions on Medicare and Social Security?

Carl Leubsdorf

It’s going to be very difficult.  It’s going to require a bi-partisan majority.  It’s going to require some Democrats and some Republicans.  Because there are Republicans unalterably opposed to any increases, any further increases in revenue, and there are Democrats who are unalterably opposed to cutting back benefits to these programs.  So, you have to work sort of in the middle of the street to do anything.  In the Senate, as I mentioned, there, you know, among the Democratic senators who are up for re-election are a number from conservative states that were carried by Republican candidate Mitt Romney in last year’s election.  So, they’re going to be very cautious about voting for anything like Medicare cuts or increase, increases in revenues.  So, it’s going to be tough.

John Sparks

It’s clear that the budget, debt ceiling, Medicare, Social Security, this must be really resolved before a whole lot of other things can happen.  But, I do want to go on to some other topics.  In the speech the other day, the President spoke about responding to climate change.  Do you think that there will be a chance for any significant legislation dealing with things like clean energy?

Carl Leubsdorf

I was surprised to see that frankly in the president’s speech and to see him make such a big, uh, major part of the speech about it.  Because they were not able to pass that kind of legislation in a Democratic Congress in 2009 and 2010.  I find it hard to believe this is going to pass.

John Sparks

You mentioned earlier in our conversation about gay rights.  It’s clear from the president’s speech it seems like to me he would support a gay marriage act.   Any chance of seeing something like this happen?

Carl Leubsdorf

I think not.  Again, I think there’s no way it would get through Congress.  I think everyone is sort of waiting at this point to see what happens when the Supreme Court rules on the California law that banned gay marriage which is being appealed.  And, there’s more likely to be action in the courts and state by state.  I think it’s unlikely a national law will be passed, and I think it’s also unlikely that they’ll repeal the federal law that says a marriage is between a woman and a man.

John Sparks

What are we likely to see in the way of immigration law?

Carl Leubsdorf

Well, I think there’s a good chance that there will be some kind of legislation there.  The president is pushing for comprehensive reform, and there are Democrats on the Hill working with Republicans, something fairly unusual these days, in trying to come up with a bill that both deals, that deals with long-term immigration problem.  The key is providing some kind of pathway, ultimate pathway, to citizenship and also some kind of a guest worker program in the meantime.  It’s frankly in the interest of both parties.  The Hispanic population is rapidly growing.  It’s the largest minority group in the country.  And, the Republicans have taken quite a beating in recent years among Hispanics in part due to their antagonism to immigration reform legislation.  And, so there’s an impetus in both parties to do something in this area.  As far as border security, we still hear this a lot, the fact is border security has been increased considerably, the amount of money being spent is up considerably, and the number of people coming through and being arrested is here illegally has gone down sharply.  Also, several papers including USA Today have done articles about the question of crime near the border and found that a lot of the stories that have been told are very much exaggerated and that the crime problem is not nearly as great as some officials have been saying.

John Sparks

How about upgrading our infrastructure?  Any chance for something happening in that arena?

Carl Leubsdorf

The problem is that that takes money.  And, it’s going to be difficult at the time when the entire emphasis is on cutting to get the money now.  Congress has been struggling with transportation legislation for several years.

John Sparks

Carl, is there anything else that we should be looking for in a second Obama term.  For instance, we have not really talked about defense or foreign policy.

Carl Leubsdorf

You know, defense spending is going to go down ‘cause the Democrats feel that, you know, there’s been a lot of emphasis on cutting domestic spending, and in order to protect the safety net that we talked about at the beginning of this interview, one way to do that is to trim back some of the defense projects that, perhaps, weapons systems that are not necessary for the kind of warfare the United States is likely to have.  We also haven’t talked much about foreign policy.  One thing that happens with presidents, they often come into office with domestic agendas and find themselves spending most of their time dealing with foreign problems.  There’s no doubt that the United States faces a very volatile situation in the Middle East.  The civil war in Syrian which has taken over 60,000 lives is continuing.  Fortunately, it has not spread into neighboring countries, but there is a danger of that if it is not settled soon.  The Obama Administration has steadfastly refused to get involved in that.  That’s not going to change.  Hopes for reviving talks between Israel and the Palestinians are not great.  The fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu has been re-elected does not bode well for those talks although he’ll have some additional pressure from the fact that the more centrist parties seem to have done pretty well and may pull him back from going so far to the right.  And, then there’s the question of Iran and the development of nuclear weapons there.  So, I think there, you know the administration has a whole series of potential land mines in the Middle East, and it’s a little hard to tell which one is going, you know, to explode first.

John Sparks

Thank you, Carl.  It’s always a pleasure talking with you.

Carl Leubsdorf

I’m always happy to do it, John.

A Fond Farewell to the Class of 2012

The Marist Poll’s graduating seniors celebrate their hard work and accomplishments at MIPO’s end of year ceremony.

2012 End of the Year Ceremony

Congratulations to the Class of 2011

Members of the Marist Poll team bid a bittersweet farewell to its student employees who comprise the Class of 2011.

2011 End of Year Ceremony

1/21: Memories of Inaugurations Past

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

Along with most of the nation today, I’m thinking inauguration.  My first memories of a president taking the oath of office date to 1961.  My age.  Ask not!  My favorite inauguration was the first I had attended, Bill Clinton’s in 1993.

Dr. Lee M. Miringoff overlooking the 1993 Inaugural Parade

There are many great memories from those few days in Washington from the swearing in (excellent seats) to attending the NYS ball that evening (rubbed shoulders with Nelson Mandela).

The top recollection, after the passage of several decades, remains watching the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue from Senator Moynihan’s apartment.  Our own private viewing stand.

My contact with Senator Moynihan dates to phone calls I would regularly receive in the early ‘80s about his latest Marist Poll numbers from his, then, staff aide, Tim Russert.  The relationship with the Senator grew over the years to include seminars at Marist College where he would treat political science students to his special take of politics and policy.  On one occasion, he was even a good enough sport to try his hand at an interview as “Daniel Patrick” with a voter who unfortunately couldn’t rate Senator Moynihan because he had never heard of him.  (Won’t ever try that again.)  And, there were the lunches in the Senate dining room always full of insight and dripping with Capitol lore.

But, his invitation to attend his inauguration party was the best.  And, the memories stay fresh as does my recollection of Senator Moynihan as a great host and gentleman.

11/28: Mitofsky Still Teaching

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

It’s been 6 years since our mentor, colleague, and friend’s death.   Warren Mitofsky was a clear thinker and major innovator of the public polling community.  Beyond his methodological rigor, he communicated long-lasting, yet, simple messages to the profession.  His thoughts remain vital through the 2012 election cycle.

caricature of Lee MiringoffDespite this year’s successful scientifically based public polls, the road was rocky, beset by a drum-beat of critics.  Yet, Warren’s frequently uttered message, now ably echoed by Joe Lenski, remains a guide.  “Believe your numbers!”

If your methods are scientifically sound, and

…you uncover unique results which pin the tag “outlier” on your findings, believe your numbers.

…you have a wider than expected spread in party identification, that brings a cascade of unwarranted criticism about weighting to party, believe your numbers.

…you are labelled a “newcomer” to Florida polling when you have Obama +2 and other long-standing polls have Romney +6, it isn’t a “house effect”.  Believe your numbers.

…you detect a changing demography… an increase in minorities… in your likely voter models, it may simply reflect changing demography.  Believe  your numbers.

…more voters are telling your interviewers that they have already voted than are being reported by state tallying sources,  it may reflect a time delay in mailing and recording early votes.  Believe your numbers.

And, if you are being hammered for belonging to a conspiracy of pollsters who are cooking numbers and skewing  results, stay focused.

Yes, it was “shoot the messenger” time and public pollsters were definitely in season.

Warren also advised us to always, always, always, poll right up to Election Day, even if you opt, to avoid confusion with Election Day exit polls, not to release the poll.  Recognizing that campaigns don’t stop when you finish your “final” survey, sometimes a week out, there just might be something to be learned for future elections about the  electorate and your likely voter models with this “exercise.”

We forgot his sage advice on the eve of the 2008 New Hampshire presidential primary when Hilary Clinton “upset” Barack Obama.  It would have saved us re-calling our respondents all week to ascertain the late movement among women to Clinton.

This year, the initial impact of Hurricane Sandy was picked up in our pre-weekend NBC/WSJ/Marist Polls of FLOHVA — Florida, Ohio, and Virginia.  But,  was there any late movement on the eve of the election?  We decided to invest, as per Warren’s dictum,  in one last poll, bringing the grand 13 month total to 53 surveys.  Sunday and Monday, we conducted a national survey and found Obama +3 among registered voters and +2 among the likely electorate.

There were many juicy poll nuggets in this survey including information about independent voters, approval ratings, the electorate’s view of the direction of the nation and the economy, minority participation, and where undecided voters were likely to end up.  This all provided a context for Tuesday’s official tally and will guide our polls, especially our likely voter models, in future election cycles.

So, Election 2012 is now comfortably in our rear view mirror.  Thanks, Warren, for being the lead driver once again.

11/27: A New Normal?

Four weeks.  It’s been four weeks since the tides swelled, the water rushed in, and the lights went out.  Still, the lingering question is, Will we ever get back to normal?

All things considered, we are extremely blessed.  Our electricity came back after twelve days of darkness, and we have hot water.  We are still without heat but just received word that a new boiler will be installed mid-week.  The demolition and clean up in the basement continues.

I call Howard Beach, Queens home.  I have done so my entire life.  The “we” to whom I refer is my husband, John, my mother, Elaine, and my brother, Bill.  My childhood home lies on an often picturesque portion of Jamaica Bay, directly across from the main strip of retail stores.  My mother still lives there.  On the evening of Monday, October 29th, I stayed at my mom’s, expecting a small amount of basement flooding, perhaps, one to two feet, like we experienced during Hurricane Irene.  Nothing prepared us for what Sandy’s wrath would bring.

With more than two hours until high tide, the water broached our backyard.  With each passing minute, the water came higher and higher.  The sandbags we stacked next to our side doors did nothing to keep the water from coming into our basement.  Bill entered the lowest level of the home to see if anything could be done.  Realizing we would have to wait out the storm, he came upstairs and closed the basement door.  The lights went out.  We cut the circuit breakers and turned off the gas, fearing an electrical fire.  Transformers on Cross Bay Boulevard exploded.  We could not see the fences in the yard, and no one dared speak of the possibility of water entering the first floor of the house.

As the tide continued to rise, I periodically checked in with my husband.  To be close to his place of employment, John hunkered down in our apartment in the “new” side of Howard Beach.  It was a section of the neighborhood no one expected to flood.  A little after 8 p.m., he asked me the time of high tide.  With about half an hour to go, two feet of water surrounded our first floor apartment, and he expected it to invade our home shortly.  I began to panic.  We hung up, agreeing to touch base in thirty minutes.

I could not contact John at the appointed time, and my emotions escalated from panic to near hysteria.  The reality was worse than John was letting on.  Water had already come into the apartment, and he had to make a quick decision.  The apartment still had power, and he feared the water would rise to the level of the power outlets.  Within five minutes, he pulled on his rain gear and left into a sea of waist high water.  Luckily, our neighbor was home, and he found shelter on the second floor of her home.  After what felt like hours, John called me.  He was safe!

Truly, that is all that matters.  Our family survived the storm.  The aftermath has not been easy.  We have our good days and our bad days.  John and I lost our apartment but are grateful to be able to stay at my mom’s house.  The apartment has since been gutted.  We estimate about two feet of water entered our home.  Our furniture, electronics, and a good amount of our clothes were destroyed.  In total, our family lost four cars to the flood.  These can be replaced.

What is most difficult to face are the lost memories – the pictures, weddings cards, and treasured collectibles that are no longer.  My mother’s basement had more than six feet of water in it.  That basement was home to five generations of memories.  The piano on which I learned to play had floated across the room and was atop a freezer that had tipped in the chaos.  My great grandfather’s Social Security card was discovered but was too saturated to be saved.  My grandmother’s baptismal certificate and grandfather’s college books are strewn across the driveway as are my mother’s original lesson plans from when she taught.  My college notebooks and papers are, now, a watered down mess.

However, I feel guilty bemoaning our losses and inconveniences.  Many in our neighborhood are still without power.  Our pastor received electricity over the weekend, but he is still using the gas jets in the rectory to provide him with heat.  Many of our friends not just lost their basements but the first floors of their homes.  Some have lost their houses entirely.  Piles of rubble lay where homes, victims of fire, once stood.  Again, we are lucky.

Some of the stores on Cross Bay Boulevard happily display signs that they are open for business.  A welcome indication that aspects of the life we once knew may be returning.  Banners have been printed and hung with the text, “Howard Beach United.”  We are truly a community bonded by tragedy and hope.  But, as the recovery moves on, we will have to wait and see what our new definition of “normal” will be.

11/14: Alzheimer’s Most Feared Disease

More than any other disease, Americans are afraid of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.  This is according to a survey by Home Instead Senior Care conducted by The Marist Poll.

Do Americans think it would be harder to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or to care for someone who has the disease?

To find out more, click here.