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Marist Poll gains credibility with national news partnerships

By Eric Vander Voort
On September 19, 2012

  • Marist senior Brian Loew received his Boston Marathon number this past Monday, bringing him a step closer to completing his first marathon. He is running to raise money for the Meningitis Association of America. Kate Giglio

The walk from Lee Miringoff's office to the Marist poll conference room takes about 10 seconds. The office is a large room on the third floor of the Hancock Center that overlooks Marist's academic quad. Miringoff takes his place, the shades go down, the lights go up, the screen is turned on and he, under the heading "Marist," shows up on television screens across the country.

Miringoff is the director of the Marist Institute of Public Opinion, the home of the Marist Poll. Last Friday, he made the walk to the conference room to appear on Chuck Todd's Daily Rundown on MSNBC to analyze the latest election-related numbers released by Marist Poll.

The Marist Poll-NBC News partnership, which was formed last year, added a member last week. The Wall Street Journal came aboard starting with the polls released on Sept. 13, giving the Marist Poll another national news outlet as a partner to publish the results of the polling. NBC and the Wall Street Journal had already done national polling together, so this was a "win-win" for everyone involved.

"The Wall Street Journal saw this as an opportunity to come on board so they could have a sponsorship and partnership with NBC and with us," Miringoff said.

According to Miringoff, who has been with Marist Poll since its beginning in 1978, this is the first time a national network news outlet has partnered with a college survey center for election polls, and the deal has paid dividends on both sides.

"For them, it provides independent, accurate, thorough, scientific poll data," Miringoff said. "For us, it provides a unique vantage point for 300 students to really have a front row seat to this important election, and they are making news while they're learning."

Last week, the Marist Poll surveyed three battleground states in the election, as they will continue to do every week until Nov. 6. Last week's results, which were released on Thursday night, detailed opinions on President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney in Florida, Ohio and Virginia. Miringoff said that the polls were the first scientific data gathered since the conventions and therefore the first to confirm the "bounce" President Obama was believed to have gotten in the states that matter.

The results of the poll played on NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams and were shown all night on MSNBC, sending the digital and Twitter worlds into a buzz. The following morning, the results were discussed on the Today Show, Miringoff went on Chuck Todd's Daily Rundown live from the broadcast room in the Hancock Center, and a story about the polls appeared on the front page of Friday's Wall Street Journal. The polls received attention from news outlets outside the partnership as well, with ABC calling Miringoff for a comment and hundreds of newspapers and websites covering the results.

"This is coverage of an invaluable nature," Miringoff said. "It says that Marist students provide a professional, knowledgeable, competent performance of their polling responsibilities to the point that two of the largest media sources in the country, at a critical time, are sort of betting on Marist."

Last week's polls revealed information regarding the current mindset of voters in three states, showing a lead for President Obama and that more people than usual have already picked a side. Over 4,000 people from the three states were polled. The Institute produced a press release for each state of about 32 pages, complete with text, graphs and charts with many different ways of interpreting the data. All of the information can be found at the poll's "Pebbles and Pundits" website, This week, they are polling three more battleground states: Wisconsin, Colorado and Iowa.

The polling, which is done by students, typically takes place between 5:30 and 11 p.m. on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Due to the partnership and the nature of election season, the pollsters have had to make adjustments to their usual schedule.

Jason Sokolowski, a senior and a supervisor at Marist Poll, said that many people have new positions this year and that a lot of freshmen/rookies have been hired. In addition to doing two hours of polling a night, a large part of Sokolowski's job is training the newcomers. For everyone, learning on the fly is a must.

"In the polling profession, this is the most important time in any four-year stretch," Sokolowski said. "It's a learning experience for everyone."

According to Miringoff, there are people working as late as 2:00 a.m. some nights. With the increasingly faster news cycle, the results of the phone calls need to be analyzed and put on paper as soon as possible.

"It's very exciting, it's very rewarding, but it's a lot of hard work," Miringoff said. "It's nice to have national attention...but there's a huge element of responsibility not just for the students and the college, but for the polling community."

For the student workers of Marist Poll, being a part of an operation that receives national attention is a way to be not just an observer but a participant in the election season.

"Just to see the companies like NBC notice us and give us the credibility, you can see that we've come a long way in the last two to three years," Sokolowski said.

When Miringoff takes the short walk from his office to the broadcast center, putting the Marist Poll brand in the national news, he's taking a step further for the institution than any other college polling center is currently able to take.

"There are a lot of colleges in the country," Miringoff said. "There is one polling for NBC and the Wall Street Journal."

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