Temple Times Online Edition
    SEPTEMBER 23, 2004
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Institute for Public Affairs to debut new political polls

Michael G. Hagen is still moving into his office after arriving at Temple this semester to lead the Institute for Public Affairs. The new institute is conducting in-depth polls on Pennsylvanians in the runup to the presidential election.

With the presidential election hanging in the balance, the candidates, the experts, the media and the eyes of the world are converging on the critical battleground state of Pennsylvania.

Just in time to help citizens and campaign decision makers learn more about the state — particularly the swing-voter-rich Philadelphia area — Temple has created the Institute for Public Affairs, an interdisciplinary public policy research center committed to studying the lives of Pennsylvanians and Philadelphians. Under the direction of new faculty recruit Michael G. Hagen, a leading scholar in the area of politics and public opinion, IPA and The Philadelphia Inquirer will debut the Temple/Inquirer Poll, an unprecedented survey of the political opinions of voting-age residents of the commonwealth.

The results of the first Temple/Inquirer Poll will be published in the Inquirer on Sunday, Sept. 26, and in the Temple Times on Sept. 30. The IPA will conduct another poll in the week leading up to the presidential election, with the results appearing in the Inquirer on Sunday, Oct. 31, two days before Election Day.

Each Temple/Inquirer Poll will be drawn from telephone interviews with 1,150 Pennsylvanians likely to vote in the 2004 election. Two groups will be surveyed: a random sample of Pennsylvanians, which will offer IPA scholars an assessment of political views statewide, and a special random sample from the Philadelphia suburbs, where many experts think the elections in Pennsylvania — and perhaps the nation — will be decided.

“The election in Pennsylvania this year is extraordinarily important,” said Hagen, an associate professor in the political science department. “Based on recent history, Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states in which the number of votes likely to be cast for each candidate are nearly equal.”

Hagen joins Temple after two years at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, where he directed the Center for Public Interest Polling — although he commuted from his home in the suburban Montgomery County. He’s one of more than two dozen new tenured and tenure-track faculty members hired in 2004 at the College of Liberal Arts.

“Michael is someone with tremendous knowledge of American politics,” said College of Liberal Arts Dean Susan Herbst. “He has been involved with some of the most important projects in the field, focusing most closely on the nature of political discourse during presidential campaigns.”

Hagen’s recent book, The Presidential Campaign of 2000 and the Foundations of Party Politics, co-authored with Richard Johnston and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, “has profoundly changed the way many scholars think about presidential races,” Herbst said.

Under Hagen’s direction, Herbst said the IPA will be a “major hub” for researchers from all 16 of Temple’s colleges to study the policy aspects of their individual disciplines. But scholars won’t be the only ones who benefit from the creation of the IPA.

“We hope IPA becomes a leading resource for policy-makers who want to understand the latest scientific findings about social problems,” Herbst said.

According to Hagen, student participation and service to the region will also be central to the IPA’s mission.

“Students will be involved in the process of carrying out IPA’s research,” he says. “We must help train the next generation of scholars and educate the next generation of citizens and policy-makers.”

“And IPA is committed to improving the communities in which we’re located,” Hagen added. “That means we’ll pay particular attention to issues confronting Philadelphia, the greater metropolitan area, and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

The Temple/Inquirer Poll, the IPA’s first major project, follows through on that promise. By including a special sample of Pennsylvanians in Philadelphia’s backyard — Montgomery, Chester, Delaware and Bucks counties — the poll will offer scholars a remarkably detailed look at a region reputed to be loaded with precious undecided voters.

“Observers believe that winning Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania suburbs will be the key to winning the state,” Hagen said. “There may be large numbers of voters living there who might vote for either candidate. We’ll examine that proposition by comparing votes that people in those areas say they’ll cast with the responses of people in other parts of the state. Then we’ll investigate the sources of any differences we find, in terms demographic characteristics and the policy views of survey participants.”

It’s that level of detail that will make the Temple/Inquirer Poll stand out from the rest, Hagen said.

“Our polling will produce accurate measurements of the presidential and Senate contests, to be sure,” he says. “But I think our analysis will be deeper and more sophisticated than the usual poll report, in part because we’re asking questions about the policies Pennsylvanians think the federal government ought to pursue.”

- Hillel J. Hoffmann