Saturdays for Emerson College Polling Society members consist of analyzing data, creating press releases, and publishing results. All of that hard work resulted in poll analysis and politics website FiveThirtyEight ranking the group as the second-most accurate college pollster.
Students in ECPS work with faculty to manage and produce public opinion surveys on political, business, and social issues. MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN featured ECPS on their national broadcast programs.
Spencer Kimball advises the 12 members of ECPS. It takes two to three hours to put all of the results together before writing the press releases, according to Kimball.
Currently ECPS undertakes weekly political polls with a focus on the 2020 presidential election. They also look at issues such as taxes, race relations, and the legalization of marijuana.
Junior Isabel Holloway, co-president of ECPS with Elizabeth Rattoballi, said polls serve as a snapshot in time to represent how the public feels. Holloway said polling always changes, and she enjoys tracking it in real time.
“Presidential primaries will be something interesting to look at,” Holloway said. “But we also like to look at issues that people are caring about across the country, and it is something we can keep track of.”
Holloway said electoral polls interest her since elections impact the nation.
“I want to be able to see what election conversations are looking like and what people are actually caring about and what is resonating with them,” Holloway said. “That is why I chose to be in polling society.”
ECPS uses Interactive Voice Response to collect data by phone. Thirteen states enforce laws restricting robocalling that make them inaccessible. ECPS occasionally collects data online, but they mainly rely on data they receive from robocalling.
Junior ECPS member David Fadul said he believes polling reveals complexity in the U.S. in a fascinating way. He said polling attracts people across the globe and serves as a way to ask questions and gauge opinions about a given issue.
“Polling shows that there are a lot of similarities and also huge differences based on a region,” Fadul said. “It’s really interesting to see the objective results that come in, especially from the elections.”
Sophomore Julia Stanton said not everyone at ECPS likes to work on campaigns. Stanton said polling is a diverse medium, and advocacy work through polling intrigues her.
“There are so many organizations that can benefit from a poll—like [gauging] public opinion on women’s rights issues and gun control issues,” Stanton said.
Junior Nicklas Hinsch, a member of ECPS, said he hopes to enter the political polling field when he graduates. He said few people receive this kind of experience from an internationally renowned polling organization.
“[ECPS] gives you a leg up coming out of school,” Hinsch said. “I think it is a great opportunity because we get a hands-on experience at every single level—survey, research, technology, and the overall process of polling.”
Last year President Donald Trump tweeted about an ECPS poll asking respondents whether they were “better or worse off financially than they were two years ago,” but he interpreted the poll incorrectly. Trump tweeted of the poll, “… most Americans, especially Hispanics, feel that they are better off under President Trump than they were under President Obama.”
Freshman Sonali Anand considered it odd that Trump mentioned ECPS in his tweet.
“Emerson Polling is a nationally renowned club. You are not just a student at the college
,—you are a part of something so big, something Donald Trump has tweeted about,” she said. “Mr. President has looked at our work, which is really cool.”
Anand joined ECPS because she wanted to participate in something larger than Emerson. She said she likes working with the fun, tight-knit ECPS team.
Senior member Rose Warren said the organization’s growth excites her. She said she’s seen how ECPS took off over the last few years and attributes it to the students’ hard work.
“We are one of the only college polling societies that is student-run. Spencer [Kimball] is the advisor, but we do all the heavy lifting,” Warren said. “The fruits of our labor have been able to build, and I think that is amazing.”