Creating new knowledge
UW-Green Bay political science research lab works to formulate poll data
By Kris Leonhardt
GREEN BAY – A project conducted through the UW-Green Bay political science research lab is working to formulate new data through public opinion polls.
UW-Green Bay Department of Political Science Chair Aaron Weinschenk developed the concept for the lab, which is somewhat similar to Marquette University Law School polling.
“So it’s kind of a little bit different in that they outsource their interviewing, and we have the students help with writing the questions doing all of that stuff. So the students are the ones who come up with the questions,” he explained.
“Students work with me over the course of the semester, and we come up with the topics. We start really general, like what do you want to know about the economy or approval of different institutions, and then we work to narrow them down and they literally help write the questions.
“The first time that we did it, we asked about approval of different political figures, different policy proposals. That group was really interested in criminal justice reform. So we asked a bunch of things about, you know, cash bail and all kinds of stuff like that in Wisconsin, so they really drive the content of the survey.”
Instead of phone calls, the students use an online polling platform to collect data.
“As you could imagine, it’s pretty hard to get people to pick up the phone these days. It takes something like 150,000 calls to get 600 respondents or something like that. It’s pretty labor-intensive. So we use an online panel, which is pretty common these days in polling.
“Then, they help analyze the data for the rest of the semester.
“It gives them a real in-depth look into the research process. A lot of classes, we’re showing them articles or graphs, things like that. And they don’t really get a true understanding of how did somebody make that graph? Where does the underlying data come from? So, really trying to give them a sense of how do we create research; how do we ask interesting questions? How do we write up the results once we have the data? So kind of an in-depth look at that process.”
Weinschenk said that he keeps enrollment small and that the course is limited to running every other year – the last one ran in the fall of 2021 and the next one will be held in the fall of 2023.
The class is limited to 15, to allow everyone a hands-on experience with research, and cost for the research lab is high.
“It costs thousands of dollars every time, and I have gotten money from some sources through the university, but if I did it every single semester, it would get pretty expensive,” he explained.
Weinschenk said that eventually data for the polls will be listed on a poll page on the university’s website.
“And we’ll put all the results from every poll out there so the public can take a look at them and hopefully, some kind of interface where people can look at different questions by demographics and stuff like that, so kind of my interactive thing.”
Results of the 2021 poll can be found at www.acweinschenk.net/uploads/1/7/3/6/17361647/voting_reforms.pdf.
For more information on the research lab, contact Weinschenk at [email protected]
*Photo courtesy of UW-Green Bay