Law school jumpstarts polling for 2012

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The Marquette University Law School will launch an independent political polling project in 2012 in anticipation of Wisconsin’s primary election season to study voter attitudes on hot issues.

Professional researchers will poll voters on issues surrounding upcoming presidential, U.S. senator and possible recall elections. While the study will collect data on attitudes toward the various candidates, it is more focused on divisive topics in Wisconsin.

Charles Franklin, co-founder of Pollster.com, a nonpartisan site for polling analysis, and a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will oversee the project and serve as a visiting professor of law and public policy at Marquette.

The project will use a sample size of about 700 registered voters, implementing about 10 to 15 polls throughout the state. Franklin said the project will poll at least monthly, but most likely more frequently as the fall final elections approach.

“It will be more than a horse race,” he said. “What we really care about are what issues are driving those voters.”

No media organization in the state has had the resources to conduct a public poll of this nature, Franklin said, and while other organizations conduct some detailed studies, this will be the first Wisconsin poll that is truly independent and nonpartisan.

“Wisconsin has been ground zero politically for the past year and probably this year,” he said. “It’s really unprecedented to poll that much in the state … Wisconsin will be at the center of politics this year.”

Franklin said once the project begins, the data from the polling will be placed on a website and available as a resource to the entire Marquette community.

Mike Gousha, a distinguished fellow in law and public policy at the Law School and 25-year veteran of WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee, said the polling project will connect with the “On the Issues” series he facilitates.

“We’ll be doing events and programs that are associated with it (the polling project),” Gousha said. “I think the polling will be used as a catalyst for these events.”

Alan Borsuk, a senior fellow in law and public policy, said he and Gousha will collaborate to assemble discussions and events related to the polling. Borsuk also said they will examine issues and work on the political analysis associated with the polls.

“I hope it will be good for the university in terms of visibility,” he said.

Borsuk also said this project will make the public more aware of Marquette’s Law School.

The money for this polling will not come from any tuition dollars but instead from various grants dedicated to these kind of projects.

Borsuk said Joseph Kearney, dean and professor of law at the Law School, wants the school to be a crossroads of even-handed and important discussion. He said this project fits into that vision and will connect with many of the programs already in place that address public policy and political issues.

Additionally, Gousha said the polling will be transparent and comprehensive.

“I think there is a need in the state for non partisan independent polling,” Gousha said.

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