[00:00.50]NARRATOR: Listen to a conversation between a student and a political science professor.[00:06.22]MALE STUDENT: I’m not sure if you know, but I was elected to student government this year …[00:09.98]FEMALE PROFESSOR: Oh, congratulations! [00:11.76] I was in student government myself as an undergraduate. [00:14.68] It taught me a lot about the political process. [00:17.55] In fact, the experience solved my problem of what to do with my life—[00:20.95]it really cemented my interest in becoming a political scientist.[00:24.24]MALE STUDENT: Cool. [00:25.13]Anyway, um, the reason I came by is, we’re getting ready to conduct a straw poll on campus. Y’know, hold an informal vote, since the general election’s just a couple months away. [00:33.80] We wanna get a feel for the student body’s political leanings. Like, who students are planning to vote for, which political party people identify with, that sorta thing.[00:42.21]FEMALE PROFESSOR: Oh sure. [00:43.10]I helped students run a straw poll once, years ago.It was a lotta work, [00:48.35] mostly because we used paper ballots and stayed up all night counting ‘em. [00:51.85] But if you use computers …[00:54.13]MALE STUDENT: Yeah, we’re creating a Web site for it where students’ll be able to vote online. [00:57.99] Um, and we’re looking for a faculty advisor to help, actually. [01:01.80] I was hoping you might be rested …[01:04.31]FEMALE PROFESSOR: Oh, I’m flattered, John, [01:05.96]but my schedule’s so jammed. [01:07.92]I’m teaching two seminars, your intro course, finishing up my research …[01:12.46] But, uh, what about Professor Klein? [01:15.70] She’s new in our department. [01:17.23] Plus, she’s a whiz with computers …
[01:19.05]MALE STUDENT: OK. I’ll ask her.
[01:20.35]FEMALE PROFESSOR: So, have you decided on a topic for your term paper yet?[01:23.91]MALE STUDENT: Not really.
[01:24.95]FEMALE PROFESSOR: Why not write about your straw poll? [01:27.09]Since the paper’s not due till after the election, you could include your results, [01:31.32] maybe compare them with the real election results?[01:33.88]MALE STUDENT: But would that be enough? [01:35.11] I mean, just comparing numbers?[01:37.12]FEMALE PROFESSOR: Well, no, you’d need to provide some analysis, too. [01:40.73] But I was thinking—there’s a couple of local ballot questions this year, [01:44.73]ya know, referenda that voters can either support or not support …[01:48.46]MALE STUDENT: Right, there’s one on whether to ban smoking in restaurants, and another one, uh …[01:52.25]I think it’s whether to spend tax dollars for a new sports arena in the city.
[01:56.64]FEMALE PROFESSOR: OK, here’s an idea …[01:58.49]In regular elections, the vast majority of voters ignore referenda; [02:03.15]they vote for their favorite candidates, but avoid ballot questions. [02:07.65] We believe it’s because voters aren’t familiar with the questions or don’t understand them. [02:12.99]But actively educating people on ballot questions right before they vote can improve referendum participation rates …[02:19.94]MALE STUDENT: In that case, maybe we could have our straw-poll Web site provide information on the ballot questions, like how each proposal would affect students …[02:27.07]FEMALE PROFESSOR: Exactly. [02:28.09] And when you write your paper, you could compare the students’ referendum voting rate to the general public’s, [02:33.94] and include your own analysis of the results. [02:36.40]Plus there’s plenty of published research on referendum voting behavior.
[02:40.26]MALE STUDENT: Thanks Professor Miller! [02:41.72] I had no idea this straw poll could actually help me in my course work.