"What could be so interesting about polls?" Tessa Fox, a sophomore journalism major, wrote in her weekly blog post. "I thought I got into journalism to stay away from math and numbers. However, after reading some background material about Professor Franklin and the polling process, I realized polling is actually pretty interesting."
Franklin, who told the class that he did his first poll when just a sixth grader, talked about his role in directing a comprehensive, independent survey of voter attitudes in Wisconsin while at the law school. The visiting professor also discussed the opportunities missed now that fewer news organizations can afford to do their own polling.
The students prepped for Franklin's visit by watching, during its last class before spring break, his hourlong "On the Issues With Mike Gousha" presentation on the law school's poll. They also had to review related material for journalists using polls – The New York Times Polling Standards, A Quick Checklist for Using Polls in the Paper and Understanding and Interpreting Polls – and other Web pages focused on the Marquette poll, including Likely Voter Crosstabs and Obama Leads GOP Field as Santorum Surges in Primary.
In her subsequent blog post, Fox said the guest speaker inspired her: "He said he would love to survey people about life in general. More specifically, how they live, how much time they attribute to various activities and the importance level of different material and non-material things. As someone who is very interested in cultural anthropology, I would be very interested to see this poll actually conducted and analyze the results."
Well said. Maybe in the future she won't sigh when I tell the class that someone special is coming to visit.