By Stephanie Butzer
With the presidential election around the corner, the public’s opinion of each candidate is vital. Jason Husser, the assistant director of the Elon University Poll, explained the inner workings of polls, political and nonpolitical, and how they affect whole populations.
“The biggest factor of its uniqueness is that it is a state poll, it is nonpartisan, nonbiased and it is academically run,” Husser said. “We like to think at least that we’re using more appropriate methods to get more accurate results.”
However, it is difficult to be exact with polls. Because opinions are not measurable or tangible, poll directors have to think of more sophisticated ways to understand the thoughts of a large population.
Even with modern techniques, the highest-quality polls still have a 3% margin of error. Nevertheless, the public still deserves to be represented.
As a democracy, citizens have the right to be heard. Many of them believe that elections reveal citizen’s opinions because if they do not like what a politician is doing they can vote him or her out of office. However, elections do not disclose everything.
”Elections don’t tell you what people’s opinions are,” Husser said. “They don’t tell you opinions on issues or opinions on the policy platform as a whole. All elections say is they like one person more than another person. A vote contains very little information.”
Surveys, unlike elections, help foster democracy by offering fully developed information to all corners of the population. The goal of surveys is to give voice to those who would not otherwise be heard or represented. Major political businesses and other elites will have their opinions broadcasted to the nation. The Elon Poll, like many others, strives to represent the general public.
To do this, leaders of the Poll must get a random sample of everyone in North Carolina. Because a list like this does not exist, members of the Poll call landlines and cell phones to extract belief.
The Elon Poll purchased a company that has records of all active phone numbers in North Carolina. It randomly chooses a set from the pool of numbers and the students working at the Poll call the number.
“We have no idea what the people are like at the end those phone numbers,” Husser said.
Senior administration recognized a need for this information for not only Elon University, but the state as a whole. The data retrieved becomes an information source for academic research and a value to media.
It is also incredibly useful for students to volunteer as the callers. It becomes an opportunity for engaged learning. Husser offers a Public Opinion Polling class once a semester for those interested in polls. He hopes it helps students get a leg-up if they want to work for a survey
The Elon Poll results will be available on their website at 10 a.m. on Sept. 3.