Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics begins public opinion polling

Where once you had to look to polls administered by Quinnipiac or Franklin and Marshall to gauge what’s on the minds of Pennsylvanians, a new center for public opinion research opening this month at Mercyhurst College is expected to become an invaluable resource for community leaders in northwest Pennsylvania on issues of local, state and national interest.

The centerpiece of the new Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics (MCAP) is a state-of-the-art computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) facility, the only one of its kind in the region. Sixteen interviewer stations situated on the fourth floor of Hammermill Library will be manned by Mercyhurst political science students trained as research associates by Dr. Joseph Morrris, MCAP director; and Dr. Rolfe Daus Peterson, associate director. Political science senior Sean Fedorko of Erie will serve as project manager.

MCAP has contracted with the Erie Times-News to deliver the results of its inaugural poll, which will weigh public opinion on the 2010 Election, focusing on what residents of Pennsylvania’s Third Congressional District are thinking about key races, including that of incumbent Kathy Dahlkemper vs. Mike Kelly for the U.S. House of Representatives; and issues, like the economy, the Tea Party movement and President Obama’s approval rating.

An estimated 600 individuals will be sampled in the coming weeks, with research results and analysis expected to be disseminated by the Erie Times-News about a month before the November election. Subsequently, MCAP’s report and supporting data will be available to the public via the college’s website.

“The center is the only independent, nonpartisan research organization in northwest Pennsylvania that will regularly conduct public opinion polls on issues of regional concern,” said Morris. “MCAP’s work will provide an important link between the public and policymakers, and promises to elevate the discourse surrounding issues facing the region.”

MCAP’s exclusive focus on northwestern Pennsylvania is not permanent. “Once we are under way, we anticipate conducting a wide range of public opinion polls of interest not only to residents of our region, but to all Pennsylvanians,” Morris said. “We’re already discussing plans for a series of statewide polls in advance of the 2012 presidential election.”

In addition to public opinion polling, MCAP will host nonpartisan Public Affairs Forums where elected officials, academicians and business leaders can debate a wide range of social, political and economic issues and where the public has the opportunity to participate in the discussion.

While MCAP’s operations are intended to provide elected officials, government agencies, news organizations and nonprofits with accurate, unbiased assessments of public opinion, they are also consistent with Mercyhurst’s goal of supporting classroom instruction with hands-on learning. MCAP provides a unique opportunity for students concentrating their studies in applied politics to plan and administer public opinion polls, analyze results and disseminate data to the public.

To learn more, visit the MCAP website or call the polling center at 824-3859.
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