NBC News and Wall Street Journal pollster Peter Hart sat down with political science professor Bob Shrum to discuss polls and campaign data in the modern political landscape at Mudd Hall on Wednesday.
The event is part of the Political Conversations series sponsored by the department of political science at the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Shrum began by discussing Hart’s career in political polls, citing technological change as a major force in how polls are conducted.
“When I started in the business, polling was done door-to-door, and that was in 1964,” Hart said. “I worked for a man named Lou Harris … He was the pollster for John F. Kennedy. Kennedy was the first U.S. candidate to use polling in a major way.”
Hart explained that polling was done very differently when he began his career. Pollsters mailed the interviews and had to send in the responses over the phone, so results took around seven days to come out, according to Hart.
“Telephone polling is the main way we have been doing polling for the last 30 years,” Hart said.
Hart also commented on the new era of internet polling and the way unanimous electronic sources have lost their face-to-face appeal of earlier methods.
“It’s instantaneous, it’s much cheaper, but what is the disadvantage? It is not a sample,” Hart said. “If I took all the bottles of wine from the liquor store down the block and pour it all together, do you think that is going to be a better bottle of wine or worse bottle of wine? But now when we do polling we just say, mix them all in it doesn’t make any difference.”
Discussing the current elections, Hart pointed out public relations issues on both sides of the aisle. For Hart, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton lacks honesty and openness, while Republican presidential nominee Trump lacks qualifications..
“This is a change election,” Hart said. “The American public has figured out they do not want Donald Trump as president.”
According to Hart, recent NBC News and Wall Street Journal polls measure voters’ perception of the candidate’s temperament, the candidate’s honesty and the candidate’s experience.
“When it comes to Donald Trump, over 50 percent of the voters said he did not have the right temperament. When it came to being honest and straightforward, they were very divided and finally, when it came to being knowledgeable and experienced, over 50 percent did not feel that way about him,” Hart said.
As for Clinton, 60 percent of voters did not believe the candidate is honest, according to Hart.
“The voters have decided they do not want Donald Trump. What they haven’t figured out is if whether they can live with Hillary Clinton,” Hart said. “She is trying to break the glass ceiling. The voters are trying to break a glass curtain.”
Jordan Elist, a senior majoring in business administration and international relations, was thankful for the opportunity to hear from Hart and his stance on the change election.
“I think it is always an incredible opportunity to hear from a prominent pollster,” Elist said. “I was also surprised to hear that this is more of a change election as opposed to a continuation election. With Obama’s approval rating at 55 percent, you would think voters would want more of the same.”