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Polling connects BW faculty, students to worldwide election coverage

Great Lakes PollWhen the faculty leading BW's Community Research Institute (CRI) devised a plan to expand 2020 election year polling from Ohio-only to three other key Midwest swing states, they never imagined the impact the new BW Great Lakes Poll would have.

But the work of political science professors Dr. Lauren Copeland and Dr. Thomas Sutton, and mathematics professor Dr. Aaron Montgomery, has been featured by news media around the world and has given a group of BW students a front-row seat to democracy in action.

Great Lakes Poll relevance

The series of four surveys in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, kicked off by taking voters' temperature in January, surveyed voters again in March and concluded with polls in September and October.

As Copeland recently recalled for Margin of Error, the idea was to focus on states critical to the 2020 election outcome.

Dr. Lauren Copeland appeared on C-Span’s Washington Journal for a 45-minute interview with questions from viewers."We were also interested in whether Ohio was still a battleground and bellwether state," Copeland explained.

Media Interest

Data and analysis from the BW Great Lakes Poll, conducted in partnership with Oakland University and Ohio Northern University, have taken the already growing influence of CRI to a new level with media pickup, guest columns and interviews from Ohio to Washington D.C. to Finland to Russia.

Coverage of the final poll has included Newsweek, CNN, C-SPAN, PBS Newshour, the BBC, London Evening Standard, Sputnik International and many, many more, plus coverage across the state and region including a large body of work by Plain Dealer.

Prior polls and analyses were featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic and NBC News. One NBC political reporter called the four-state polling "invaluable."

"Every time we released new results, we heard from an expanding list of reporters working to better understand the dynamics of this crucial election," said Sutton.

Experiential learning

Political science major Liam Reilley '22 was immersed in the public opinion polling process through a special course tied to the BW Great Lakes Poll.Away from the high-profile media coverage, there is another success that is near and dear to the CRI faculty team: the hands-on learning opportunity for students enrolled in the BW faculty-student collaboration course tied to the Great Lakes Poll.

"It was a real honor to have worked on something this big and to see it in the news," said BW political science major Liam Reilley '22. "That was a real thrill."

Cameron Monaghan '21, also a political science major, was intrigued by the give and take surrounding the precise wording of each question. "Those discussions not only improved the quality of the survey, but they also gave students a much better understanding of question design," Monaghan said.

According to Copeland, CRI is thriving as a research methods laboratory. "The 20 students involved in this project inspired some important survey questions. They also experienced a behind-the-scenes look at public opinion polling, including the nuances of survey research design, data analysis, weighting, as well as how to communicate our results to the public. I'm grateful I've had the opportunity to work with them."

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