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Movies often serve as perfect time capsules, offering snapshots of what life was like in an earlier time. Take Dazed and Confused. The movie is set in late seventies Texas and focuses on groups of ... Read Now >


10/11: What the Numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire Mean

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

The NBC News/Marist Poll for January’s GOP New Hampshire Primary (it really won’t be in December, will it?) and the Iowa Caucus reveal some very interesting political tidbits.  Sure, we’re still several months away from these much awaited events but likely New Hampshire voters and likely Iowa caucus-goers are picking sides.

caricature of Lee MiringoffNo big surprise so far in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary.  New Hampshire neighbor Mitt Romney has a wide lead over the GOP field.  Iowa may eventually be the table setter for whom Romney has to take on in New Hampshire.  But, no clear challenger has emerged at present.

The only danger sign for Romney in New Hampshire is that only 38% of likely voters are firmly committed to a candidate.  45% who back Romney are firmly committed to him.  Better than the average, but not a lock.

Iowa, however, is a different ballgame, and represents more precarious terrain for Romney.  Romney is well-known but finds himself in a close battle among likely Iowa caucus-goers with Herman Cain.  Is Cain enjoying his 15 days of fame, or is this where the anybody-but-Romney caucus-goers coalesce?

Like New Hampshire, Hawkeye staters are still lukewarm to the field.  Only 41% of likely caucus attendees are firmly committed to their choice. But, 56% of Cain’s backers are solidly behind him compared to only 29% of Romney’s supporters.  That has to concern the Romney camp.  Also, of the four factors motivating likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers, the good news for Romney is he has the support of the plurality of those who say experience matters most.  The bad news for Romney is that  values, issues, and electability count more to likely Iowa caucus-goers than the candidate’s resume and, in each of these other factors, Romney has not established an advantage.

And, then there’s the Tea Party.  50% of likely Iowa caucus attendees identify with the Tea Party.  Cain leads Romney  by 31% to 15% with these voters.  But, among likely Iowa caucus-goers who strongly support the Tea Party, which amounts to one in five likely participants,  Cain’s advantage over Romney grows to 41% to 7%.  This also has to be a chief worry for team Romney.  It is something we will be watching closely in future NBC News/Marist Polls.

10/11: The Financial Picture on the Home Front

By Barbara Carvalho

News about the drop in median incomes is about as unwelcome as the final notice by a bill collector.  But, how surprising is it?  In the latest national Marist Poll, 64% of Americans tell us they have difficulty making ends meet.   The figure rises to 76% for those with annual household incomes below  $50,000.  This is not a pretty picture.

Matters are even more unpleasant when considering the 72% of Americans who think their personal family finances will stay the same in the coming year or get worse.  77% of Americans also think unemployment next year will remain at its current unacceptable high level or be even higher.

The only oddity in these numbers, as far as the public is concerned, is the report that family income has deteriorated more in the two years since the recession officially ended than it did during the recession itself.  Maybe that has something to do with the growing gap in income Americans are experiencing.  Maybe it also has something to do with the fact that 75% of Americans don’t share the view that the recession  is over.

Striking a Balance logo

10/4: Key Regional Findings: Striking a Balance: New Yorkers Speak Out on Rightsizing Local Government

In an unprecedented survey of more than forty-five hundred New Yorkers, The Dyson Foundation/Marist Poll set out to uncover residents’ views toward the issue of local government consolidation.

Striking a Balance logoStriking a Balance: New Yorkers Speak Out on Rightsizing Local Government, originally released earlier this year in April, focuses on nine regions in the state The Capital Region, The Adirondacks, Western New York, The Finger Lakes, Central New York, The Mid-Hudson Valley, The Lower Hudson Valley, New York City, and Long Island.  And, this week, the Dyson Foundation/Marist Poll is releasing key survey findings from each of those nine regions.

The schedule for release is:

For More Information:

Key regional findings and complete survey results for “Striking a Balance: New Yorkers Speak Out on Rightsizing Local Government” may be found at  For more information about the Marist Poll, visit  To learn more about the Dyson Foundation, log on to


The Marist Poll, 845-575-5050
Lee M. Miringoff
Barbara L. Carvalho
Mary E. Azzoli

The Dyson Foundation
Diana M. Gurieva, 845-677-0644
Steve Densmore, 845-234-8713

9/29: The Collapse of the Boston Red Sox

In the wake of one of the strangest nights in my life as a Red Sox fan, I have to ask, “Why?”

The question is not rhetorical expression of despair, as in “Why is baseball so cruel?”  It’s a real question: “Why did the Red Sox collapse?”

It’s easy to come up with quick answer.  Injuries, poor conditioning, bad free agent signings, and lack of clubhouse leadership are all popular explanations.  Many will propose a combination of causes.

And it is also likely that some people will throw up their hands and declare that the reason cannot be found, because baseball defies reason.  Such is the greatness of baseball, they might say.  I am not one of those people.  In a few weeks, though, once I have entered the acceptance phase, perhaps I will be able to appreciate that perspective.

In the FiveThirtyEight Blog at the New York Times, Nate Silver crunched the numbers to determine the likelihood of the Red Sox missing the playoffs in such agonizing style.  In a calculation that was not “mathematically rigorous,” he determined “a probability of about one chance in 278 million.”

With odds like those, Silver speculates that some other factors may be involved in the latest Sox meltdown.  I would have to agree.  In this age of advanced statistics, when sabermetricians are ensconced in baseball’s front offices and celebrated in films like “Moneyball,” we should be able to empirically investigate why one team manages to defy all expectations.

I know where to start: stress.  Though it’s not an original explanation, the idea that pressure could be the root of the Red Sox’ woes jibes with their playing environment, where the weight of sports history, regional angst, and the local media can be overwhelming.  It also might explain player underperformance — see the Yerkes-Dodson law — and the large number of broken-down bodies.

How to measure stress?  Blood pressure and cortisol levels come to mind.  Players could also fill out questionnaires assessing anxiety.  Of course, the players’ union may not approve such measures, given how drug testing has been so fiercely contested.  Also, athletes may be loath to dignify the notion that stress affects their job performance.  Nonetheless, I still think it would be interesting to compare the subjective experience of playing in Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium as opposed to say, St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field, where the Rays might benefit from the breezy Florida vibe.

My point is not to invite pity for the Red Sox, a collection of millionaires, nor to excuse their futility.  The results would be just as interesting if there’s no demonstrable difference in stress.  Maybe there’s some other reason.  Either way, I can’t believe the answer lies in dumb luck or the resurfacing of a curse.  I can only hope that cold, hard facts might alleviate my own stress over the cruelty of the baseball gods.

9/28: Behind the NBC News/Marist Poll

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

Suffice it to say, the team at The Marist Poll is pleased to join forces with NBC News to provide independent and accurate poll data and analysis on the upcoming GOP presidential primary/caucus sweepstakes.  Through this partnership, the public will receive what Marist College students have been participating in for more than three decades, namely, a front row seat to the political process.  Marist College students learn by doing.  Now, we intend to open up the classroom to the public and demystify the process of conducting public opinion polls.

caricature of Lee MiringoffBeyond the horse race numbers of who is ahead and who is behind, we hope to provide insight into the dynamics of the race… which issues are driving the electorate, what kind of influence do Tea Party supporters have on the outcome, how does the size and composition of turnout alter each candidate’s chances?  In so doing, the public will be better positioned to understand what campaign consultants are looking at in their private polls, the ones they use to devise their strategies.

The NBC News/Marist Poll is all about disclosure and transparency.   There are polls, and then there are polls.  Some use “live” interviewers and scientific methods to select a random sample, including calling cell phone only households.  Some do not.  Some provide the public with their question wording and the order in which questions are asked.  Some do not.  Some use well trained,  quality interviewers.  Some do not.  Some disclose how they define the all important “likely” voter.  Some do not.

In essence, sometimes the public is in on the secret of how poll numbers are derived.  But, unfortunately, often the public is not.  Instead, citizens are bombarded by polls with little guide as to how the sausage is made.  No longer.  In this partnership, to paraphrase Chuck Todd, we will bring people into the polling process and “kick the tires.”

We will provide information about how samples are selected, why cell phone only households are called, how likely voters are identified, what role question wording and question order play in the survey process, what makes for good quality interviewing, and how we go about analyzing the poll results.

We fully understand that public opinion polls are graded by whether they pick the right winner and by the right margin.  But, when it comes to prediction, pre-primary/caucus polling is a particularly perilous endeavor.  Our NBC News/Marist Polls will be conducted prior to the casting of votes, and, as such, are aiming at a moving target.  With primary turnout much lower than in a general election and with an electorate which is typically late in deciding whether to vote or whom to support, things can be pretty volatile.  Not surprisingly, a great deal can happen from the time a poll is conducted to primary day.

Having said this, picking the winner (by the correct margin) and understanding what is driving the electorate remains the goal.  But, when it comes to prediction, let’s not ask psephologists to accomplish what we don’t expect from seismologists or demand from  meteorologists.  Translation: predicting public opinion may be no more dependable than timing an earthquake or forecasting the weather.  Nonetheless, we will communicate what works and what doesn’t.  Hopefully, we will all learn from the experience.

9/22: NBC News/Marist Poll

NBC News and Marist College are pleased to announce the launch of a polling partnership, the NBC News/Marist Poll, for the 2012 Republican primary season.

NBC News and Marist Poll logosThe NBC News/Marist Poll will gauge public opinion throughout this fall in key Republican primary and caucus states and track the campaign for the Republican nomination next spring.

“With the diversity of states in play in this year’s Republican race, let alone for the general election, it’s important for NBC News to have a partner who will bring academic and statistical rigor to the difficult task of state polling. Marist is that partner,” says Chuck Todd, NBC News Political Director and Chief White House Correspondent.

“What better way could an educational institution inform the public on the critical issues of the day,” says Marist College President Dennis J. Murray. “The unprecedented relationship between NBC News and The Marist Poll aims to do just that.”

The Marist Poll is a survey research center at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.  As an academic polling institute, The Marist Poll informs Marist students and the public about its poll results, but most importantly, it brings to light survey methods and the behind the scenes of polling.

“As a polling institute, we adhere to a strict standard of transparency, and we look forward to letting the public in on how we come to our findings,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Poll.  “We are very excited to work with the political team at NBC News and to provide our students and the public with a front row seat to the political dialogue of the day.”


Mary E. Azzoli
Marist College, 845.575.5050

Erika Masonhall
NBC News, 212-664-3230

9/9: College Football: The Legacy of the “Death Penalty”

By John Sparks

It really doesn’t matter what college or university you may have attended, when it comes to football these days, your school’s color is green — green as in dollars, cash, filthy lucre.  It hasn’t been win one for The Gipper in forever.

The name of the game is money.  Today’s college football is about multi-million dollar television contracts, large stadiums, high dollar coaches and athletic directors, and don’t forget the huge gambling industry where, each season, billions are bet on the games.

College football is big business.  University presidents cannot ignore it.  Potential gifts from alumni are dependent upon a winning season and bowl game receipts.  The old saying about having a university the football team can be proud of is no longer a joke.  Our values and priorities have clearly gotten out of whack.

Is winning everything?  It’s one thing for Vince Lombardi to have said that about his professional Green Bay Packers, but we’re talking amateur athletics.  Or, are we?

Today’s sports pages are filled with stories about recruiting violations, overzealous alums, agents paying off Heisman Trophy winners, and coaches who must have their heads in the sand when it comes to knowledge of NCAA rules violations.

25 years ago the NCAA handed down its first (and only) Death Penalty against Southern Methodist University in Dallas largely because of a television news story produced by yours truly for the ABC affiliate in Dallas.  A disgruntled linebacker, David Stanley, told me in an interview that he received $25,000 to sign a letter of intent with SMU and that he and his parents were mailed monthly payments totaling $750 for the next two years until a cocaine habit got the best of him, and he was cut from the squad.  We confronted the SMU athletic director, head football coach, and recruiting coordinator with the evidence, and the NCAA reacted by banning intercollegiate football at SMU for one season.

True to its name, the Death Penalty, indeed, just about killed off the entire football program.

The university has never fully recovered.  The university president, athletic director, head football coach, and recruiting director all resigned in disgrace.  The bishops of the Methodist Church held their own investigation.  The governance of the entire university was restructured.  It turned out the governor of Texas, Bill Clements, knew about the cash payments, but when he was asked about it at his weekly news conference, he said, “It wasn’t like inauguration day when we had our hand on the Bible.”  Clements had been Chairman of the Board of Governors at SMU, and when he wasn’t wearing that hat, he served two terms as governor of the entire State of Texas.

Football is and has always been a huge deal in Texas.  It starts out at an early age.  In small west Texas towns, the high school football team often carries the reputation of the entire community on its shoulders.  The father of a good player who can run, pass, and catch has often been lured to another town where he’s been given a job so his son can help the local school to win a state football championship.  Many Texas high schools have stadiums that are nicer than some colleges.  The stakes get even higher when the lad is ready to go to college.

Over the years, money has corrupted football just as it has in just about every other aspect of life in these United States.  The big boys have swallowed up the little guys whether it’s food, automobiles, or even colleges and universities — you name it– big has become better, and only the large survive.

The most recent revelations in college football have concerned the University of Miami where a booster has been singing about getting hookers, cash, and a yacht for sex parties for players — all against the rules.  It seems Nevin Shapiro became righteously indignant when the kids he did these favors for did not return them and help him out with some cash when he was convicted on charges of running a Ponzi scheme.  Shapiro now receives his mail behind bars at a federal prison — his home for the next 20 years.

The stories Shapiro is telling were bound to happen.  After SMU was given the Death Penalty and the world saw what it could do to a football program, the conventional wisdom was that never again would the NCAA assess its Death Penalty…ever.  It was just too devastating.  And yet, when you think about it, what better environment for those who would push the envelope to operate in?

When it comes to sanctions, the NCAA has punished schools, coaches, and athletic department staffers.  It has banned boosters for life.  Now, some are saying let’s punish the players for accepting improper payments.  Really now?  Of all the folks who benefit from this multi-million dollar industry, the ones who carry the load and make it all possible are the players,  and they are allowed to be paid ZERO, zilch — absolutely nothing.  That doesn’t seem quite fair in our capitalistic society.  I was under the impression that those who do the work should reap the reward for their efforts.  I also thought Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery in 1863.  Except for the lucky few who receive scholarships, college football players are provided room and board and little else other than long days of practice, classes, study halls, not to mention the time away from school on the road during the season.

Some believe college players deserve more and have suggested they unionize.  Former academic all-American Dick Devenzio proposed this in the mid 1980’s and urged players to strike the Rose Bowl.  It didn’t work.  No kid wanted to miss out on the opportunity to play in the granddaddy of all bowl games.

The purists (and, I count myself among them believe it or not) say wait a minute.  This is amateur sports.  You’re supposed to play for the fun of it.

Yeah?  They used to say the same thing about our Olympic teams.  I recall in the 1950‘s when we would talk about how the Soviet athletes were paid to compete — it was, after all, their full-time job to be an athlete.  On the other hand, American athletes were true amateurs.  That hypocrisy finally went out the window.

Yet, the hypocrisy still remains for the college football players.  We hold on to a fantasy, yet many will tell you that paying college players under the table goes on just about everywhere.

So what’s the answer?  Isn’t it time we quit fooling ourselves and just openly pay them.  A great many are really just majoring in football anyhow.

Well, what would that do to the NFL?  What if we didn’t limit players to 4 years eligibility since we’re paying them?  Would the popularity of college ball eat away at the profits of the NFL and put an end to what has amounted to a free farm system for NFL teams?

These are questions fans and those who make their living off of college football continue to wrestle with.  The solution isn’t easy, but it’s clear that something needs to be done if for no other reason than the fact that the NCAA doesn’t have the resources to hire enough gumshoes to effectively police and enforce all the infractions that are being committed.

At least it’s not the FBI trying to keep up with all the terrorist cells.

9/7: GOP Debate or Battle Royal?

By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff

Expect Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment of GOP politics to be broken as the large field of Republican presidential wannabes meet in three debates during the next three weeks.  And, with good reason.

caricature of Lee MiringoffSo far, it’s been a race that has probably attracted at least as much attention for those who have chosen not to run (Huckabee, Daniels, Barbour, Pataki), those who have already ended their candidacy (Pawlenty), and those who have yet not declared their intentions (Palin, Giuliani) as it has for those who are traipsing around Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.

The oddity about this GOP contest is how ill-formed it is as we head into heavy campaign season.  (Don’t totally blame the candidates here as the dates for Iowa and New Hampshire haven’t been set, yet).

The so-called top tier consists of  recently anointed front-runner Rick Perry, who is yet to demonstrate anything beyond the ability to get out of the gate fast; Mitt Romney, the early but weak front-runner who now occupies the place position behind Perry; and Michele Bachmann (just barely) who gained an early advantage based upon her debating skills and narrow win in the Iowa straw poll but who now must find a way to re-energize her campaign.

The remaining candidates, perhaps led by Jon Huntsman, are searching for a spark that ignites their 15 news cycles of fame.  Meanwhile “undecided”  continues to be a popular choice among rank and file Republicans.

This all accounts for why the GOP field is sensing the “urgency of now.”  Coupled with the weakening strength of President Obama’s re-election prospects, the debates are likely to  undo the Reagan pledge.  I’m sure the campaign handlers will claim that their candidates are merely providing issue clarification.  But, no one will be fooled when the gloves  come off early and the punches start flying in the upcoming debate slugfests.

9/7: The American Jobs Picture

By Barbara Carvalho

You have to go back to the 1940’s to find a time of zero net job growth.  And yet, that’s the current dismal state of economic affairs.  Anyway you slice the numbers, 9.1% unemployment coupled with an additional 9 million Americans who are underemployed, that is working part-time but seeking full-time employment, adds up to a sorry jobs picture.  The Congressional Budget Office forecasts at least 8 percent unemployment until 2014.  That certainly doesn’t put any minds at ease.

And, leave it to the economists to  provide less than comforting predictions.  The “official” end to this “Great Recession” supposedly occurred more than two years ago, as if Americans share that view.  Now, the period of slower than expected growth has given rise to talk of a “double dip” recession.  USA TODAY recently noted that many economists are upping the odds that this is likely to occur.  “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

But, will Washington come to the rescue?  With endless discussion over the debt ceiling, President Obama and the GOP Congress seem to have finally discovered that jobs matter greatly to Americans.  And, here we go again.  More battles, less policy, and all, so it seems, with an eye to the 2012 elections.

8/10: A.J. Burnett and the U.S. Economy

By John Sparks

Unless you’ve been under a rock or on another planet, you know that despite folks saying that our economy couldn’t get any worse, it has.  Standard & Poors has removed the United States from its list of risk-free borrowers, and following the action, the stock market plummeted, demonstrating a lack of confidence in our country’s ability to deal with the national debt.

If you’re a die-hard New York Yankee fan, you know that the Bronx Bombers finally defeated the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.  They owned a short-lived one game lead atop the American League East and haven’t won since.

So in summary, that’s the good news and the bad.

But for those of us who constantly find ourselves consumed with the fortunes of the Pinstripers, there is the lingering problem of what to do about A.J. Burnett.

Burnett was acquired in 2008 from the Toronto Blue Jays, and at the time, many considered him to be the icing on the cake for the starting rotation.  His first season was respectable — 13 wins, 9 losses.  He had moments of brilliance, and he appeared to be one of the ingredients in bringing some levity to the clubhouse with his propensity to slam shaving cream pies into the faces of the game heroes following walk-off victories.

But then things changed, and quicker than you can say Chuck Knoblauch, he has become the big question mark in the starting rotation.  Thursday night he could not maintain a 13-1 lead, and Joe Girardi had no choice but to yank him before he completed the 5 innings necessary for him to secure the win.  A.J. didn’t win in July.  He didn’t win a single game in July and August of last season.

Let me suggest that his mechanics are good.  He has the ability to execute.  However, one can look into his eyes and see the self-doubt.  Chuck Knoblauch had the same look when he could no longer make a routine throw from second base to first to get the out.  Knoblauch was moved to the outfield.  What do you do with A.J?  The bullpen is crowded with great performances.  The starting rotation is overflowing with good arms.  What to do?

I’m wondering if a good hypnotist might do some magic and help Burnett convince himself that he can win again.

And, I’m hoping the same thing for the United States of America.  We need to reclaim the self-confidence that has made our nation great.

My father’s generation experienced the Great Depression.  Then the leader of the free world stepped up to the plate and told us that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  The message rings true for today.

Let us hope and pray that we don’t enter a war to help us find ourselves again.  The stakes are much more deadly today.

Yet, it’s not so simple as moving to left field or engaging a hypnotist.  But we do need sacrifice.  We need to become a manufacturing giant again.  We can no longer live in a world of smoke and mirrors in which we rationalize that the age of technology changes everything.  Truth is, we have become a nation of consumers, and that must change.  In order to have jobs, we need to be making something.  In order to make things, we need to depend on our natural resources.  And to compete with the world, we must bite the bullet and go to work for considerably less than the wages we expect to make.  When shirt makers in Hong Kong and China go to work for the lowest of wages, we need to take a hard long look and make the decision that in a global economy in order to compete, we must make sacrifices.  We must feel the pain.  In short we can’t have it all.  We must either work for considerably less or make a personal statement by buying only U.S. products.  Since one can rarely find the label “Made in USA,” that’s going to be no mean trick.

Regardless, instead of thinking about number one, we must think of the team.  The team is the United States of America.  All of us need to be team players.

Relief pitcher Rafael Soriano told Joe Girardi that he didn’t care where Girardi pitched him — he was there to make his contribution.  Jorge Posada didn’t like it when he was dropped in the lineup earlier this season.  For a brief 24-hour period his ego got the best of him, and rather uncharacteristically, he thought of himself and not his team.  It didn’t take him long to remember to practice what he had preached to others.

It’s teamwork and sacrifice that will get the job done for the Yankees and for our country’s economy.  But each of us must participate — lawmakers, businessmen, labor, even baseball players.  We must come up with solutions, and that includes doing with less, rolling our sleeves up, getting to work, and making sacrifices — together as a team.

Above all, we must take pride in our team.  We must regain our self-confidence.  By the way — I’m convinced that A.J. Burnett can do the same.