Journalism Students Conduct Election Poll

Knox College cooperates with newspaper to survey opinions on candidates, issues

October 05, 2012

Knox College students are taking the measure of public opinion in Galesburg, in a pre-election poll conducted in cooperation with the Galesburg Register-Mail newspaper.

Students in the Newswriting and Reporting course, taught by veteran newspaper editor Susan Schlaufman Deans, worked out of the Register-Mail newsroom in September to call registered voters in Galesburg.

"We ask people, 'Have you made up your mind?' and 'Who would you vote for, if the election were held tomorrow?'" Deans said. "We're also asking about a lot of other issues. Even if someone doesn't know whom they're voting for, we're asking which issues are most important for them."

Results of the poll will be announced prior to the election in the Register-Mail.

Below, Professor Deans and Knox students in the Register-Mail newsroom. Larger versions of the pictures and extended captions are available in the photo gallery Journalism Election Poll on the Knox College Flickr channel.

Conducting the poll is both educational and enjoyable, according to students who participated in the calling in late September.

"I'm a political science major and journalism minor, so this is right up my alley," said Stephen Spence, a senior from Bloomington, Illinois. "Polling is not an exact science, but we try to measure as accurately as possible the way that people intend to vote."

Ema Bassey, a junior from Nigeria with an independent major in communication, said respondents have voiced strong opinions and engaged in small talk. "They'll tell you if they're a strong Democrat or Republican," Bassey said. "They also tell you when they're having dinner [at the time we call]. One person asked me about my name -- little stuff like that. It makes the interview process more fun."

"This will be the third consecutive presidential election poll conducted by a Knox journalism class and published in The Register-Mail. The first two polls [in 2004 and 2008] came within 4 percent of the actual election results [for the city of Galesburg]," wrote Register-Mail editor Tom Martin, when he announced the poll in the newspaper on September 26.

Deans, a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism and 1970 Knox graduate, has worked as a reporter and editor at several newspapers, including the Boulder Daily Camera and the Rocky Mountain News. Knox faculty Andrew Civettini, assistant professor of political science, and Richard Stout, professor of economics, assisted with the survey design and data analysis.