Listen to a conversation between a student and a political science professor.
Student: I’m not sure if you know but I would like to go to the student government this year.
I was in student government myself as an undergraduate.
It taught me a lot about the political process.
In fact, the experience solved my problem of what to do with my life.
It really cemented my interest in becoming a political scientist.
Cool! Anyway, the reason I came by is we are getting ready to conduct a straw poll on campus, you know, hold an informal ballot since the general election is just a couple of months away.
We want to get a field from the students' bodies political leanings, like who students are planning to vote for, which political party people identify with, that sort of thing.
I’m sure. I help students run the straw poll once years ago, uh, it was a lot of work.
Mostly because we use paper ballots, and stayed up all night counting them.
But if you use computers……
Yeah, we are creating a website for our students to be able to vote online.
Em, we are looking for a faculty advisor to help, actually.
I was hoping you might be interested.
Oh, I’m flattered, John.
But my schedule is so jammed.
I’m teaching two seminars, your intro-course, finishing up my research.
But, what about Professor Clan?
She is new in our department.
Plus, she is a wiz with computers.
Ok, I will ask her.
So, have you decided on the topic for your term paper yet?
Why not write about your straw poll?
Since the paper is not due till after the election, you could include your results.
Maybe compare them with the real election results.
But would that be enough?
I mean, just comparing numbers?
Well, no, you need to provide some analysis, too.
But I was thinking, there is a couple of local ballot questions this year.
You know, referenda, the voters can either support or not support?
Right. There is one on whether to ban smoking in restaurants, and another one……
I think is whether to spend tax dollars for a new sports arena in the city.
Ah, Ok. Here is an idea.
In regular elections, the vast majority of voters ignore referenda.
They vote for their favorite candidates but avoid ballot questions.
We believe it's because voters aren’t familiar with the questions or don’t understand them.
But actively educating people on ballot questions right before they vote can improve referendum participation rates.
In that case, maybe we could have our straw poll website providing information on the ballot questions, like how each proposal would affect students.
And when you write your paper, you could compare the students’ referendum voting rate to the general publics.
And include you own analysis of the results.
Plus, there is plenty of publish research on referendum voting behavior.
Thanks, Professor Miller.
I have no idea the straw poll can actually help me in my course work.