Lectures Celebrate Quantitative Reasoning in Polling and Predictions

October 7, 2008

Molly Tarantino, Public Affairs

WELLESLEY, Mass.—A September 2008 poll of voters living in rural areas of battleground states showed that Sen. John McCain has a 10-point lead among this key demographic. But is it enough?

“In this rural poll, you have McCain only winning by 10 points,” said Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg on NPR. “That's a recipe for Obama winning this election. If you look at the national polls, Obama now has about an average of a two-point lead. Part of the reason that he has that lead is McCain isn't doing better in rural areas.”

Greenberg, the senior vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, will present the lecture “Pollster 101: The Ins and Outs of the Polling Profession” Wednesday, Oct. 15, at 5 pm in Pendleton West 212 on the Wellesley College campus. An expert on public opinion, research methodology and survey design, she advises Democratic campaigns, advocacy organizations and foundations — particularly those focused on women’s health, religion and youth.

Greenberg will kick off “Celebrating QR Connections,” the Ellen Genat Hoffman ’68 and Stephen G. Hoffman Series, which will focus on the connections between quantitative reasoning, polling and predictions with a series of three lectures in October. The series is free and open to the public. All lectures will be held in Pendleton West 212 at 5 pm.

On Thursday, Oct. 23, Sunshine Hillygus, associate professor of government at Harvard, will present findings from her new book, coauthored with Todd Shields, The Persuadable Voter: Wedge Issues in Presidential Campaigns. In her lecture, Hillygus will describe who in the electorate is persuaded by campaigns focused on controversial issues — such as abortion, gay marriage and immigration — and what the implications are for American democracy.
The final lecture, “Political Arithmetik: Where Numbers and Politics Meet,” on Thursday, Oct. 30, will be given by University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor Charles Franklin, the co-founder of Pollster.com and co-director of the Big Ten Battleground Poll. 

“Franklin will help us understand political numbers and the logic of statistical comparisons before he heads to New York City to help ABC News behind the scenes on election day,” said Corri Taylor, director of the quantitative reasoning program. 

Past Hoffman series have focused on the connections between quantitative reasoning and art, biology and forensic evidence.

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 68 countries.