Battleground poll brings GW prestige

GW’s sponsorship of a widely cited presidential campaign poll has put the University in the spotlight and given students another way to study and gauge voter opinions.

Since April, the University has co-sponsored the 2004 Battleground Poll, a bipartisan survey, with two outside polling groups. According to the latest poll results, which were released Friday, President Bush holds a 5 percent lead over Democratic challenger John Kerry among likely voters. The last 2004 poll will be released on Election Day.

“(The poll) puts us up in the big league,” said Christopher Arterton, dean of the Graduate School of Political Management, who has acted as a non-partisan moderator for the poll’s public release.

Republican pollster Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group, who co-produces the surveys with Democrat Celinda Lake of Lake Snell Perry and Associates, said the firms have been conducting polls for every election cycle since 1991.

He said GW’s sponsorship has given the poll “more credibility” and helped create a more “in-depth” political perspective.

“We’ve always had a kind of close relationship to the school,” said Goeas, who sits on the University’s Council of American Politics.

The polling, combined with CNN’s “Crossfire,” which is taped on campus, advertises the University as a center of politics, officials said. The poll has been cited by dozens of media outlets, including The Washington Times, MSNBC and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The polls are also analyzed in classes.

“(Polling is) something that brings a university to people’s attention when they might not otherwise be thinking about that university,” said Michael Freedman, vice president of Communications at GW.

GW paid an unspecified “nominal fee” to sponsor the poll, about 5 percent of the cost of starting a new poll, Freedman said.

“Our investment in this has paid off very handsomely already,” he said.

Goeas said the pollsters have been making 250 phone calls per night, using “random digit dialing” and taking data from the most recent 1,000 calls.

“It covers a good 800 pages of data, so then we’re looking at every possible demographic group,” he said.

According to the data, until the fall, the presidential race was “neck-and-neck” before Bush took a slight lead over Kerry. The president’s lead slightly diminished between the first and third nationally televised debates.

Arterton compared GW’s poll to the Washington Post survey because both are pointing to a Bush win. However, he said GW’s poll is distinct in that the first question asked is who the respondent plans to vote for, rather than framing the question with information about campaign issues.

“In general, I think having a lot of different surveys is a good idea,” Arterton said, noting what he said was the importance of following one consistent survey over a long period of time.

Goeas said he and Lake track about 100 campaigns per election cycle, including current Senate races in California and Colorado and gubernatorial races in West Virginia and North Carolina.

The University has housed the pollsters’ data since 1991, making it accessible to students and members of the media.

“One could go back and look at presidential politics in June 1992, June 1996, June 2000, and June 2004, and get a sense of how politics is different this year,” Arterton said.

University officials said they will continue to work with the pollsters through the 2006 election before they reevaluate the relationship.

“The two poll firms we’ve been working with have forged what’s a superb partnership,” Freedman said. “And I think it can only blossom from here.”

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