Anyone who has watched first-year students transform into confident seniors knows the impact four years on a college campus can have.
The Meredith Poll - which marks its fourth year in existence this month - has made an impact of its own since its start in spring 2015.
Since the first poll was administered in Joyner Lab in February 2015, Meredith students and faculty have conducted nine additional polls with North Carolina voters. Calling for poll number 11 took place February 24-28.
To date, 117 different Meredith College students across a range of majors have participated as callers. More than 60,000 North Carolina voters have been surveyed by students on topics ranging from perceptions of women as business and political leaders to the environment to distracted driving.
While all those nights in the call center can sometimes be long and tedious, student callers enjoy talking with people from across the state.
“I enjoy participating in the Meredith Poll because it allows me to become well-versed on the various opinions on important issues within our community and state,” said fashion merchandising major Elizabeth Evans, ’19.
Impact of Poll Results
Poll data has been used far and wide over the last four years. One of the highlights for Meredith Poll Director David McLennan was seeing the Meredith Poll featured on famous statistician Nate Silver’s popular FiveThirtyEight blog.
“Because Nate Silver is well known for his scrutiny of a poll’s methodology,” McLennan said, “being included in a roundup with more established polls like Pew and Gallup is evidence that our careful work with the Meredith Poll is meaningful.”
The poll has also attracted the attention of journalists across the state and nation. Reporters from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Charlotte Observer, WUNC radio, WTVD-TV and the Greensboro News and Record are among those who have covered Meredith Poll results.
Students from a variety of majors have used poll results in undergraduate research projects on topics such as net neutrality, fake news, and mental health legislation. Policy groups such as the NC Free Enterprise Foundation have used results to inform policy positions with state legislators.
A Focus on Women’s Issues
Women’s groups across the state have also used the data to expand their membership and recruit more women to run for office.
It is the Meredith Poll’s role as North Carolina’s only survey research organization to focus on issues pertaining to women that Meredith President Jo Allen, ’80, believes brings the greatest value to the broader community.
“I believe the poll is an important way for us to examine the differential perspectives and impact that women bring to the most critical political questions of our time,” Allen said.
Strong Educational Value for Students
Above all, the faculty who run the poll and the administrators who have supported it believe the poll’s greatest accomplishment is the impact it has had on the educational experience for students.
Whitney Manzo, assistant director of the Meredith Poll, incorporates the Meredith Poll into her POL 334 Research Design and Methods class. As part of the course’s survey research unit, students write questions for the poll, work at least four hours during the poll, and then practice working with data in Excel and testing hypotheses using the data from the poll.
“This experience helps bring the theoretical discussion of survey research to life for the students, which I believe helps them become better scientists,” Manzo said. “They also get practical skills that they could use in their careers after Meredith.”
The practical skills the poll helps students build is why Allen believes it is an “exceptional educational tool for our students.”
“The learning that comes from shaping a good question, following through with sound methodology, and analyzing results present extraordinary opportunities for developing informative communication strategies, speaking to an audience that may have various perspectives, and ascertaining the resulting impact. In short, this is education at its finest,” Allen said.