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A Perfect Storm for EVs

Gas prices are on the rise and so are electric vehicle (EV) sales. Has the price at the pump given the EV industry a way to appeal to the average consumer? On June 11th, the ... Read Now >

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The Perfect Fit

Finding a pair of jeans that fits just right can be a challenge!  What can you do to make the process a little easier?  Here’s some practical advice from the Marist Poll’s Mary Azzoli.

Contributor’s Corner: Beyond the Numbers

By John Sparks

Knights of Columbus CEO, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, discusses the findings of “Business Ethics in a Time of Economic Crisis,” a survey conducted in partnership with the Marist Institute for Public Opinion to determine the public’s level of confidence and trust in business and leadership.

Carl Anderson

Carl Anderson

2,072 Americans and a group of 110 high-level business leaders were questioned about ethics and business credibility.

Here’s the transcript of Anderson’s interview with The Marist Poll’s John Sparks about the survey’s findings.

JOHN SPARKS
Carl, I was wondering first of all, why did the Knights of Columbus commission a poll on Business Ethics?

CARL ANDERSON
Well, of course, one of the reasons that the Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 was to provide a financial assistance to the widows and orphans of members, and out of that grew an insurance company.  So we’re very much a part of corporate America from that standpoint.  Over the last number of years, we’ve been very concerned about ethics and morality in public life and in American society and culture, so we thought this was one of the ways that we might be able to add value to the discussion of what’s going on in the American economy over the last four or five months.

JOHN SPARKS
Have you sustained substantial losses since we’ve hit the recession that we’ve been experiencing the past few months?

CARL ANDERSON
Well, I would say everybody in business has had some losses. Ours, although we’ve had some, have been much more modest than many other companies because we have a very conservative investment philosophy and a very conservative investment policy.  So, for example, we did not invest at all in any subprime mortgages that did such damage to many other companies, and of course we only invest in investment grade bonds, so we don’t do anything in the junk bond market or we don’t do anything in hedge funds, thinks like that.  So everybody’s taken on some water here, but ours has been modest by some other standards, and frankly in terms of the way the industry looks at surplus ratios, we’re actually stronger now vis-à-vis the industry than we were a year ago.

JOHN SPARKS
What did you expect to find out when you commissioned the poll on Business Ethics?

CARL ANDERSON
It’s hard to say that we had any preconceived notions. What we really wanted to take a look at was how Americans felt about the general idea of business ethics, whether they thought corporate America was measuring up to their expectations, and then we wanted to see carefully what corporate executives actually thought and where there was a parallel and maybe where there was some divergence.

JOHN SPARKS
Were you surprised by any of the results or any of the particular answers that you got back?

CARL ANDERSON
Well, I think one of the surprising things was how in alignment many corporate executives were with what we would call the general American public, or there was a kind of consensus between corporate executives and the American public about what they expect out of business, which is to say, that most of us, whether we’re corporate executives or not, think that a person’s ethics should not be left behind when they walk into the job, and therefore that there should not be one set of business ethics and then a different set of personal ethics. People expect there to be convergence there.  We saw that to be the same, American public in general, corporate executives.  We also thought that it would be interesting to know whether there was a difference between, once again, corporate America and the American public in terms of whether ethics made sense in terms of looking at a corporations’ long-term success or even short-term success, and here we found again both the public and corporate executives felt that there was not a contradiction between ethical business practices and successful business practices, and even corporate executives believe that high ethical standards actually contributed to the long-term success of a corporation.  What we found strong on the part of the American public, which maybe was a little bit surprising, was that they felt that a personal gain, career advancement was perhaps some of the most important indicators in corporate decision making rather than the public good or even the success of the corporation; and while the business executives diverge from that, still there was a significant number of corporate executives that found that to be the case as well.

JOHN SPARKS
Carl, there’s been a lot of things that have come into play during the last few months because of the recession we’re experiencing, and there’s no one critical factor I don’t suppose, but we read about the Madoffs of the world.  Did you find or do you believe that there’s a need for new corporate leadership that’s ethically based?

CARL ANDERSON
I think that was one of the strongest results, one of the strongest findings from the poll, really. As we move forward, and we’re going to get through this crisis, at the other end, the question is:  What kind of leadership will have brought us through this, and what kind of leadership do we expect at the other end of it?  And the survey found, I think, very strong evidence among the American people that they expect a new kind of corporate leadership that is strongly committed to ethical values and ethics in their business practices.  And so if there’s one message to take away to corporate America, I think it is that what a courageous corporate executive or CEO must do in terms of ethical leadership both for himself driving it down through his corporation and then within, could we say, the industry of the corporate community not being reticent to articulate strong standards.

JOHN SPARKS
What kind of traits are we looking for in major corporate leadership?  What kind of traits do you think our leaders need to possess?  Do you think this would’ve made a difference in our current recession had we had more people of that caliber?

CARL ANDERSON
I think it would have made a great difference because one of the issues here is the confidence of the public, and it’s not simply confidence in the question of the free market system, but it’s got to be confidence in the people who are making the decisions within a free market system.  After all, that’s what the free market system is about:  decision making.  And even if you go back to Adam Smith, the hidden hand, that was a moral hand in many ways according to Adam Smith, and so for this system to work well, people have to have confidence in the moral values of the people at the top and the people making the decisive decisions along the line.  So it’s very important in restoring confidence.

JOHN SPARKS
Carl, what do you think it’ll take to change that culture and mentality in the business world that currently says to many people, “Get yours while you can and leave the mess for somebody else to clean up”?

CARL ANDERSON
Well, I think there’s a responsibility on the part of both corporate executives and consumers and investors that they insist that it not be business as usual, that there be higher standards, and I think you can point to many leaders in corporate America in terms of executive decision making.  Peter Drucker is a perfect example of this.  I mean Drucker was very strong in speaking out saying he didn’t believe there was such a thing as business ethics; he believed there was only personal ethics and that a person’s ethics had to carry forward into his business decision making and it had to be – – had to be strongly committed to that, and I think you can replicate that many times. Those individuals have to stand up, and they have to speak out more, and they have to insist that they do business with individuals who have the same type of commitment.  And investors have to be cognizant of it and also to demand those kind of high standards.

JOHN SPARKS
Now the survey reported that two-thirds of Americans believe that our corporate leaders should rely on their religious beliefs and values to guide them in their business.  And yet there are many folks that’ll tell you that religion no longer plays a role it once did in the lives of Americans and they’ll cite dwindling church and synagogue attendance, and that might seem to present a problem. Do you have any idea what role that religion and personal faith presently play in the lives of our country’s financial and corporate leaders?

CARL ANDERSON
Well certainly there are many corporate leaders who are deeply religious, and I think the one important value that religion brings to this discussion is the age old question of how one treats one neighbor and the recognition that we are a country of neighbors.  And therefore, we’re not dealing only with an abstraction of a consumer or an investor, but we’re dealing with a live person whose welfare is going to be affected by our decisions.  And I think that recognition that we all have a responsibility to each other, and that comes out of the Christian tradition, the Jewish tradition, the Islamic tradition, that’s a very important value and we should not be reticent in articulating it, and it’s one of the most important things religion brings to our culture in general, but certainly to any successful business culture.

JOHN SPARKS
Carl, can Christians change the tone and direction of our culture do you believe?

CARL ANDERSON
I think it is one of the fundamental responsibilities of a person of faith to bring those values into the public sector, not in a confrontational way, but certainly from a Christian perspective one would do that as a matter of personal witness, and that witness has to be something that is, like I say, personal, but personal in two senses:  one that is authentic with the individual who’s professing it, and secondly, that it affects other person’s in an authentic, real way that makes a difference in their life.  And so this is how religions have historically influenced the culture, and I think we would be much poorer if those values from our Judeo-Christian heritage are diminished in society because, let’s say, if we look back even at recent history, more humane, a greater commitment to the common good, a greater commitment to those less fortunate, a greater commitment to those who are suffering or who have particular kinds of hardship in their lives, these are all responses that come out of a Christian-Judeo heritage, and I think we have to do a lot to try to preserve that because everyone benefits regardless of their religious faith or their lack of faith.

JOHN SPARKS
Carl, for those people that say the bottom line is the bottom line, is there a payoff or competitive advantage for companies whose leaders conduct their business ethically and with the highest standards in values that you’re calling for?

CARL ANDERSON
Well, I would say it’s not just my view, but take a look at Jim Collins and Jerry Porras’ book, Built to Last, which I don’t know how man most successful American corporations over time are ones who are committed to a value beyond and above profit.  Profit is always important.  You’ve got to have profit if you’re going to survive. But the great companies, companies listed in Built to Last, for example, like Johnson & Johnson or Marriott are two examples, or Boeing, are companies that have historically placed a value beyond profit. People recognize that, and they respect it, and it’s what they found to be a key to long-term success.  So yes, I would say that’s a very much part of it as is strong ethical stand because that is what is going to build affinity in terms of both investors and in customers and in loyalty to the company among employees.

JOHN SPARKS
Carl, I’ve got pretty much what I looking for. Is there anything that we haven’t talked about in the realm of business ethics that you’d like to add or say that we haven’t talked about?

CARL ANDERSON
No, I think that’s very good.  If you’re happy, I’m happy with it.

JOHN SPARKS
I’m very happy.  I thank you for your time.

Join the Team!

Are you interested in becoming a member of MIPO’s incredibly talented team of student interviewers? Positions are available. All applicants must be registered Marist College students and must be available to work evenings. Students are paid $8.00 an hour to start and work approximately four to six hours per week. Don’t worry about experience! We provide the training, and college work study is not required. The Marist Poll is located in the Hancock Center.

For more information, contact Daniela Charter at extension 3663 or email Daniela through our contact page.  Students interested in working at MIPO should contact Daniela before the semester begins.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized

Today’s turbulent economic times are enough to make even the most financially-minded person’s head spin!  If you’re looking to better understand the factors contributing to today’s recession, Interaction and Media Designer Jonathan Jarvis has broken down this complex issue through the use of animated graphics and audio narration.  In “The Crisis of Credit Visualized,” Jarvis tells a simple story of how American society got itself into this financial mess.  Jarvis’ work is also one of 27 visualizations and infographics FlowingData.com has compiled to help the average person break through the web of confusion surrounding today’s economy.

The Wrong Crowd

By Barbara Carvalho

There is a crisis of public confidence in America’s business institutions.  A recent Knights of Columbus/Marist Poll shows a majority of Americans give Corporate America failing grades for ethics and honesty and most think business executives check their ethical standards at the door.  The public believes excessive executive salaries, exaggerated claims about products or services, dishonesty to employees, improper accounting practices, or falsifying of records is common corporate practice.  Ironically, many business executives agree.

Barbara Carvalho

Barbara Carvalho

This translates into a dim view of corporate culture that has put personal advancement and private gain ahead of prudent business practice, support for employees, and the public good.

The financial bailout hopes to reverse the downward spiral of the country’s financial institutions. But, there is a critical need to restore trust in a culture that, right now, is characterized by Bernie Madoff and those who cling to “bonus as usual” even as they experience a sea change of epic proportions.

How could this happen?  Was it fearless fraudsters never thinking they would get caught — a system not providing the proper restraint — or, was it, as our school teachers warned, what happens when you hang around with the wrong crowd?

Interestingly, a study by researchers Francesca Gino, Shahar Ayal, and Dan Ariely published in the March issue of Psychological Science attempts to illuminate our understanding of what makes people cheat.  In the experiments, college students were asked to solve a set of mathematical exercises in a very short period of time.  It was an impossible task to complete.  The students were provided with a monetary reward.  They were to pay themselves a set amount for each correct answer and return the balance of the money for incorrect or incomplete answers.

But, that was only the setup.  As the students focused on the task at hand, a hired actor stood up and said, “I’ve solved everything.  What should I do?”  The experimenter reminded him about the procedure.  When the actor finished he said, “I solved everything.  My envelope for the unearned money is empty.  What should I do with it?”  The experimenter replied, “If you don’t have money to return, you have finished and are free to go.”

What impact did the cheater have on the rest of the group?  Well, it depends.  When the other students thought the actor was part of their group, cheating increased.  When the actor wore the t-shirt of a rival school and was considered an outsider, cheating decreased.

The study illustrates how ethical climate and culture influence whether or not people participate in unethical behavior.  In other words, the research suggests that the fear of getting caught may have a lot less to do with why people cheat.

Rather, the authors conclude, “Healthy work and social environments depend on the ability of individuals (e.g., leaders and other role models) to spread ethical norms and values, while reducing the attractiveness of unethical misconduct, either through appropriate sanctioning rules or through an ethical culture…relatively minor acts of dishonesty by in-group members can have a large influence on the extent of dishonesty…”

The bad news is how easily we may be swayed by the judgment of others.  So, for the current economic debacle, there is plenty of blame to go around.  The good news is that most people don’t cheat.  Strong, ethical leadership which rewards values of honesty and good conscience and demonizes unethical behavior can rule the day.  It can also go a long way toward digging us out of this economic quagmire.

The Inauguration: A View From the Crowd

Stacy Newton

We had no tickets to the Inauguration.  We simply walked toward the National Mall.  It was freezing; the sun at 7:30 a.m. did little to warm us.  We started about a mile away, where the streets weren’t quite so crowded; I thought that, perhaps, all the handwringing over the sheer number of attendees was overdone.  But, based on the way bleary-eyed revelers were stuffed in coffee shops, seeking a caffeinated thaw as they approached the city center, it was clear that Washington was going to be overwhelmed that day.

Indeed, the crowds multiplied the closer we came to the Mall.  Pretty soon the sidewalks were full, and security personnel in camouflage fatigues appeared at street corners, answering questions and providing directions.  A few blocks from the Mall, vendors selling food, hand-warmers and Inaugural souvenirs ranging from buttons to “official” certificates of attendance were barking out their deals.

At this point, the crowd became a river of people flowing in one direction.  You resisted the tide at your own risk.  But, it was a controlled onslaught.  Officers handed out maps and firmly told people to keep moving.  A policeman on a motorcycle, like a high-tech sheepdog, zipped up and down the curb while blaring his siren, discouraging anyone from stepping into the street.  Concrete barriers prevented stampedes by filtering the crowd through small openings.  After we were allowed into the street, which had been closed off to traffic, I was able to stand on a barrier and scan my surroundings: in back and in front of us, every inch of asphalt was covered with people with steaming breath and colorful knit caps.  I had never been in a crowd so large.

Stacy Newton

That would be dwarfed by what I encountered in the Mall.  We walked toward the Washington Monument and found a spot with a view of one of the many Jumbotrons placed throughout the grounds.  To our left stretched a line of portable bathrooms whose length appeared to rival that of the Great Wall of China.  Meanwhile, the crowd closed in behind us as a video montage of earlier speeches and performances played.   The sun crept higher in the clear sky, but the temperature didn’t seem to rise.  Standing there, feeling my toes and face grow numb, I wondered how all of these people, especially the children and elderly, could endure this two-hour wait.  To the left, a young boy swaddled himself in a Spider-Man blanket; to my right, an elderly woman kicked her legs to keep the circulation going.  Other people wrapped their scarves around their mouths and bounced and swayed as music blared through towers of speakers next to the video screens.  As the minutes passed, conditions only grew more frigid – the slightest breeze could send an icy chill through several layers of clothing.  A steady wind arrived, causing the flags ringing the Washington monument to quiver on their poles.  I assumed some people would leave, even though doing so would require pushing one’s way through a dense shoulder-to-shoulder throng.  But, everyone stayed.

When the Jumbotron showed the slow procession of dignitaries that kicked off the Inauguration ceremony, it was apparent that the elements hadn’t sapped the crowd’s enthusiasm.  Predictably partisan, spectators booed members of the outgoing administration while cheering members and allies of the incoming one.  Finding their sense of humor, everyone laughed when the announcer asked the crowd to rise or be seated; they couldn’t sit down even if they wanted to.  Fewer people were shivering, as though warmed by the moment; they’d removed their scarves from their mouths so their voices could be heard.  This collective feeling reached a level of pure joy when the First Family was announced; Sasha, Malia and Michelle Obama, shown walking out to the ceremony with wide smiles, drew passionate cheers.

Stacy Newton

Stacy Newton

The excitement escalated to frenzy when Obama himself approached the stage.  The bungled Oath of Office, coupled with an audio delay on the video screen, hushed the crowd a bit as we tried to figure out exactly what was happening.  But as soon as Chief Justice Roberts said, “Congratulations, Mr. President,” the less-than-perfect Oath was forgiven, and raw emotion rushed out in full force.  Friends, family and even strangers gathered for group hugs, children waved mini American flags, and amateur photographers aimed their digital cameras in every direction, seeking to capture the fleeting moment forever.

Again, I expected some people to leave.  Again, no one did.  Instead, they listened to Obama’s entire Inaugural Address.  As it started off in a somber tone, warning of great challenges ahead, the crowd listened quietly and respectfully, but then grew animated when Obama promised, in his dramatic, confident cadence, that the challenges “will be met.”  The rest of the speech induced a similar emotional rhythm – the crowd grew quiet when Obama referred to America’s failures and shortcomings but shouted and clapped whenever he concluded that we, as Americans, can and must reverse these wrongs.  We’d overcome much bigger challenges in the past, he said, and could therefore overcome them in the future.  Perhaps Obama’s greatest gift as a politician is to make his followers believe that this “we” to which he refers is real, rather than rhetorical; I can’t speak for the rest of the crowd, but it was impossible for me to resist the unifying spirit of the address.  The end of the speech prompted another round of cheering and flag-waving – and then, finally, people began to leave.

Stacy Newton

Stacy Newton

Getting out proved much harder than getting in.  We found ourselves in a stagnant mass of people that for a long time appeared to be going nowhere.  Surprisingly, spirits remained high.  Spontaneous songs – including “Lean on Me” and “Celebration Time” – and chants – “O-Ba-Ma,” and “Yes, We Can” – started up as we inched our way toward the exit.  Some celebrants climbed into trees, enjoying a bird’s eye view as they perched on the branches.  Off in the distance, a daredevil of sorts drew cheers by skipping across the top of a stand of port-a-potties, no small feat considering their triangular roofs and flimsy plastic construction.  At one point, a man with a booming voice loudly but politely exhorted the crowd to move to the left to make better progress, actually succeeding in getting us to shift in that direction.  Admiring his leadership skills, another man joked, “Is that Obama?”  The only signs of irritation occurred when a man from a religious organization preached through a megaphone about the Ten Commandments.  The crowd wasn’t interested in hearing him speak to what was essentially a captive audience.

During the slow journey out, one particular, unexpected moment drove home the reality of the Inauguration.  A hum of an aircraft sounded overhead, and we all looked up to see a military chopper cutting across the perfectly blue sky; it was carrying George W. Bush away from Washington.  Some people clapped and sang, “Say hey hey, goodbye,” as the helicopter grew smaller and smaller, finally vanishing into the distance.  For me, seeing Bush transported out of Washington, alone up there while hundreds of thousands of us packed the National Mall down on the ground, reinforced that the Inauguration wasn’t merely pomp and circumstance.   For better or worse, power really did change hands, and we’d all served as witnesses.

Election Night: Witnessing History

It was an unusually warm November evening marred only by a few sporadic raindrops — Election Night 2008. A hum of anticipation weaved its way through a growing crowd gathered on NBC’s “Election Plaza,” and within hours, that buzz escalated into a symphony of cheers, chants and applause, climaxing the moment NBC declared Barack Obama the first African-American president of the United States.

For pollsters and political junkies, few things compare with the excitement of Election Night. This year, though, was different. History would be made regardless of who won, and the team at the Marist Poll had ringside seats to witness the monumental event unfold.

Nestled seven floors above “Election Plaza,” the “MIPO” staff crunched exit poll numbers in the WNBC newsroom. After releasing an exhilarating and exhausting 29 high-stakes polls this general election season, the team was primed for the outcome. Throughout the evening, the staff analyzed data and prepared stories for NBC New York’s coverage. One-by-one, the network called the states, and just after eight o’clock, Barack Obama achieved a major victory and John McCain a crushing blow. Pennsylvania went blue. Like so many of the political pundits, the pollsters at Marist spent many days (and nights) discussing the importance of Pennsylvania. When the announcement was made, a colleague and I looked up from the stack of papers assembled between us and stared at each other. Pennsylvania had fallen quickly — a major indicator of the direction of the national electorate. A little more than an hour later, what many considered John McCain’s political death knell rang. Barack Obama carried Ohio.

As each state fell, an explosion of cheers erupted outside. The crowd’s elated cries permeated the walls of 30 Rock. Then, it happened. Just before eleven o’clock, NBC News announced internally they were going to declare Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States.

With cameras in hand, the MIPO staff raced down to WNBC’s broadcast platform overlooking the Rockefeller Center Skating Rink. There, Dr. Lee Miringoff, Director of the Marist Institute, sat with WNBC anchor David Ushery awaiting their next report. Throughout the evening, Dr. Miringoff provided WNBC viewers with exit poll analysis, and everyone on the staff was familiar with the route down to the rink. On this, our final journey down to the location, however, the end was far different. We gathered, not only to help ensure a successful broadcast but to witness a great first in American history.

Atop the platform, an overwhelming energy emanated from the crowd surrounding us. When the official call came down declaring Barack Obama the next president of the United States, the scene mirrored that which is seen in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. While many listened politely, the chants and cheers continued as Senator John McCain made his concession speech. But, soon the mood changed. The giant plasma screens hoisted high above the plaza showcased President-elect Obama inside Chicago’s Grant Park, and as he approached the podium, the crowd outside of 30 Rock hushed – a silence seldom heard in New York’s bustling midtown. If for just one brief moment, white, black, young and old were joined together to witness history and bound by a renewed sense of hope toward the future.

The New Hampshire Pre‐election Polls

So, what exactly happened last night in New Hampshire? Did Hillary Clinton have a stunning comeback in the closing hours of the campaign or were the pollsters and pundits alike just dead wrong all along? Well, for answers, we at the Marist Poll took a look at the numbers.

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Trendbreakers: March 3, 2007

Trendbreakers is a new show that spotlights the latest poll
numbers and the people and the stories behind them.

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Race-Conscious Admissions Programs: The Court of Public Opinion

On April 1 the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on two cases challenging how the University of Michigan uses race in its undergraduate and law school admissions processes. The case is being closely watched in higher education circles because virtually all of our nation’s selective colleges and universities have embraced the goal of having diverse student bodies.

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