Dornsife begins experimental online poll to gauge residents

Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences announced last week the start of an experimental online survey, which polls L.A. residents’ opinions on political issues and candidates.

The online poll is based on the success of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, a cooperative phone survey undertaken three years ago by the Los Angeles Times and Dornsife College experts to gauge public opinion. Unlike the phone poll, however, the new online experiment will ask for in-depth answers to political questions independent of the Los Angeles Times.

Dan Schnur, director of the new poll and the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, said online polling reflects a cultural shift regarding technology that can better anticipate accurate poll results.

“Just as more people now communicate by text message or email than phone calls, we believe the future of public opinion polling will take place online,” Schnur said. “We tremendously value the current USC Dornsife political poll and will continue to operate with that poll in the future, yet we believe it is important to experiment with this new poll as well.”

Though the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll is limited to asking voters yes-or-no questions, the online poll allows for increased feedback in the form of follow-up questions. Voters in the experimental poll who previously could only voice their support or opposition of candidates are now able to give reasons for their positions.

Two California public opinion firms are conducting the online poll. Schnur said to prevent bias, one of the firms hired, M4 Strategies, is a Republican firm, and the other, Tulchin Research, is a Democrat firm.

The previous USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times phone poll was among the most successful in accurately predicting the results of the last presidential election, Schnur said. The original poll is still being operated, and in the coming weeks, analysts will compare results of the telephone poll to its online counterpart.

Schnur said the project has helped bring credibility and publicity to the university.

“The USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll has brought tremendous visibility to the university,” Schnur said. “The survey receives more attention in the mainstream news media than any other subject related to USC.“

USC now receives more non-sports news coverage by mainstream media than any other university in the nation besides Harvard, Schnur said.

USC students will also take part in analysis of the poll’s results.

“Students have always been able to participate in the analysis and discussion of phone surveys. It’s our goal to give students the same opportunity with the online poll.”

The results of the online poll will be released Thursday.