Santorum brings national attention to F&M poll

BY SHIRA KIPNEES ’15
Staff Writer

The College was recently thrown into the national spotlight when former Republican presidential candidate hopeful and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum discussed an F&M poll and G. Terry Madonna, director of the Floyd Institute’s Center for Politics and Public Affairs, on national television.

According to an article from the Washington Post entitled, “Rick Santorum: Pennsylvania polls showing close race are work of a ‘Democratic hack,’” by Felicia Somnez, Santorum referred to Madonna as a “democratic hack,” for the results of an F&M poll that had him losing Pennsylvania to likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Santorum also claimed Madonna has gotten many polls wrong before and suggested he gets his numbers by picking them out of a hat.

However, Madonna has directed polls for over 20 years. He has directed polls for the media on many different levels, such as national, state, congressional, and mayoral. He currently polls for eight media partners in the state and his polls have been very successful in the past.

According to Madonna, in the 26 polls conducted since 2004 when the poll was moved to F&M, the poll has accurately predicted the winning candidate 25 times. The one poll that incorrectly predicted a winner was a congressional district poll completed about 20 days before the election.

“Polls are not predictive, [they’re] a snapshot in time, and we try to provide context and a deeper understanding of the attitudes of voters,” Madonna said.

[pullquote1 quotes=”false” align=”center” variation=”coffee”]“The charge about being a democratic hack is baseless and outrageous. I have never polled for a party or a candidate, and have avoided any hint of partisanship.”
— G. Terry Madonna, director of the Floyd Institute’s Center for Politics and Public Affairs[/pullquote1]

In addition, the polls Madonna conducted for Santorum’s senatorial campaign had him leading in the two he won in 1994 and 2000 and losing in the third race in 2006, which all turned out to be accurate predictions. In 2010, Madonna and the Center for Opinion Research polled in six races and had Republicans leading in the last polls before the election, and the Republicans were subsequently victorious.

“The charge about being a democratic hack is baseless and outrageous,” Madonna said. “I have never polled for a party or a candidate, don’t contribute to candidates, and have avoided any hint of partisanship. The media would never permit any hint of partisanship. I believe Santorum singled out this poll because it was the first poll that showed a close race in Pennsylvania, and the prospect of losing the state to Romney would prove devastating to his current and any future presidential candidacy.”

Santorum ended up dropping his presidential bid on April 10, before the scheduled Pennsylvania primary on April 24. However, the F&M poll was just the first poll to show results that indicated that Santorum might lose the state. The Floyd Institute’s Center for Opinion Research, whose goal and function is to design and collect survey data and to analyze voting data, is directed
by Berwood Yost, who is a nationally recognized authority in sampling, questionnaire design, and analysis. The Center collects its information and data by using probability samples of voters, and it has also developed likely voter screens.

“The Center also has a great professional staff that implements many phases of the survey research process,” Madonna said. “Over here on the third floor of Harris we will continue to perform our tasks professionally and to maintain F&M’s high standards.”

Questions? Email Shira at shira.kipnees@fandm.edu.

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