Scene from movie Dazed & confused of students standing, sitting, and laying on and inside an orange convertible car

We Should Hang Out More

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 >


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 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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