Marist Poll Thrives on Democracy
Students Develop Career Skills Working for MIPO
Since 1978, the Marist Institute for Public Opinion has been a fixture on the Marist College campus. Started by Dr. Lee Miringoff as a way to teach his political science class about voting behavior, it has evolved into a national opinion poll, covering an array of issues ranging from politics to sports to technology and beyond. Known as the Marist Poll around campus, the organization works year-round, employing students as their survey research interviewers.
The Marist Poll grows especially busy during election season and Dr. Miringoff believes that there are a number of reasons for why they have become so successful during these specific times. “There are several aspects which contribute to our success,” he said. “First, we always use the most scientific, rigorous methods in conducting our surveys, including live interviews speaking to people on landlines and cell phones. Second, we are fully transparent in releasing our methods and results. Third, our secret sauce is the Marist students who do an excellent job conducting interviews and supervising in the phone center.”
New surveys are developed each week as the Marist Poll has media partners in both NBC News and the Wall Street Journal for state polls and the McClatchy News Service for national polls. To expand their array of topics into the sports world, the Marist Poll has also begun polling with HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. To add fashion into the mix, the Poll also joined forces with Marist’s Fashion Design program to present the results of a survey on issues relating to fashion at Fashion Week in New York City. In terms of growth on a political level, the Marist Poll has conducted a series of seminars over the past few years. Some were on campus while two were in New York City and one took place in Washington D.C., all on topics of national electoral concern. The forums have involved top journalists and were presented to current Marist students, Marist alums, and friends of the College.
Mike Conte, the Assistant Director of Survey Center and Data Management, enjoys having a variety of media partners, especially during election time. “It helps the Marist Poll get national attention, especially when national elections are involved,” Conte said. He feels that the atmosphere at the Institute gets busier. “It’s a lot more hectic but you’ll see our name out there a lot more,” he said. “It’s like our version of the playoffs. All of our best guys are out there giving it all they got.” He finds polls exciting, as it provides a sneak peek into what is in store for the country and finds pride in seeing MIPO’s work on display. “Polls represent public opinion,” Conte added. “They are the voice of democracy, and that is what makes them so important.”
MIPO is often in the same conversations as the Quinnipiac University polls and Gallup polls. However, Conte argues that there is a significant difference that sets the Marist Poll apart from them. “It’s definitely the student factor, as we were the first college-based survey,” he said. “We work hard to maintain our independence from other research organizations through providing classes on campus for students to understand the media and statistical side. We try to make the Marist Poll an educational program above all else.”
Many students enjoy their time as employees of the Marist Poll, especially at such a crucial time. Catherine Vaccaro, a recent Marist College graduate and former MIPO coach, reflects on her time at the Poll with high regard as she enjoyed hearing opinions from people all over the country. “When there’s a big election going on, it’s always an interesting time at Marist Poll,” she said. “You really get a behind the scenes look at the election and get a look at what society really thinks about the candidates. As a coach when it’s super busy, you really need to keep the other interviewers motivated to keep getting results. So, I thought it was pretty rewarding to see our results on national news channels cause it shows our hard work paying off in the real world.”
Gabrielle DeRario, a junior at Marist and an interviewer at the Poll, believes that it is important to see where people stand on important issues. “If we don’t hear from a good majority of people, there will be no impact of all of the work that we accomplish,” she said. “It’s important for everyone’s voices to be heard, no matter how much they differ from our own personal beliefs.”
Written by Adriana Belmonte '17
Want to learn more about the campus and classes at Marist College? Visit our News page.