On the fourth floor of Gladfelter Hall, nestled near the back corner of the Political Science department is a plain white office door, lacking the newspaper clippings or political cartoons that plaster most doorways. Inside, due to bookshelves overflowing with public opinion polling texts, there’s space for two chairs and just enough room to swivel from desk to shelf.
But that’s how Michael Hagan, director of the new Institute for Public Affairs does business. On the outside, there are no unnecessary ornaments screaming for attention. On the inside, there is a wealth of knowledge.
Hagan brings to Temple a history of extensive polling and scholarly study. He directed the Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers for the past two years, and co-authored The Presidential Campaign of 2000 and the Foundations of Party Politics, a book that sought to uncover the effects of campaigns on voters.
In less than two months, Hagan has already coordinated a comprehensive poll of Philadelphia area voters, partnered with The Philadelphia Inquirer to publish the results, and has subsequently brought Temple to the forefront of credible polling organizations.
“I have a fair amount of background to establish credibility, we had the good fortune to partner with the Inquirer, and we did a good job,” said Hagan on the positive reception the IPA has received. “We came up with results that are plausible and interpretable, and we got into some elements of the campaign that are more in-depth. So those things put us in a position where people took us seriously.”
The IPA released their first poll results in the Inquirer on Sept. 26 and 27, covering both the presidential election and the Pennsylvania senate race. The poll’s most resounding conclusion found that 1,333 Pennsylvanian’s likely to vote were veritably split between Sen. John Kerry and President Bush; 49 percent favored Kerry to Bush’s 47 percent, with 4 percent undecided. The poll also asked voters their level of concern on a variety of controversial issues including the war in Iraq, terrorism and the economy, while gauging preferences for each candidate.
The results prompted a media blitz, with various news outlets picking up the story. About a half dozen television stations ran the figures and a number of newspapers citied the results, including Toronto’s The Globe and Mail, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and New York’s Newsday.
After the response surrounding their first poll, Hagan and the IPA hope to release their second set of results on Oct. 31, two days before the general elections. But Nov. 2 won’t mark the end of Hagan’s tenure. Rather, he hopes to continue his partnership with the Inquirer and publish quarterly surveys done in part by students and faculty from many disciplines.
“We’re an interdisciplinary research institute that I hope forges connections between faculty and policymakers,” Hagan said. “I certainly hope to facilitate … interactions about politics between students and political leaders and provide a training-ground to teach graduate students how to conduct surveys.”
All of this is coming from a man who merely stumbled across the university after hearing “through the grapevine” that a position was available. In less than 60 days, Hagan has made a name for Temple in the polling world.
Now if only he could find time to decorate his door.
Brandon Lausch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.