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AUM launches new polling initiative to study Alabama public opinion on elections

A new polling initiative at Auburn University at Montgomery (AUM) will gauge Alabama voters’ opinions on candidates for office and critical public policy issues at the state, local, and national levels.

Housed in the AUM College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences’ Department of Political Science and Public Administration, the new polling operation, tentatively known as AUM Poll, will initially be conducted as part of a new political science course, “Survey Research Experience,” being offered this summer.

Under the guidance of Assistant Professor of Political Science David Hughes, AUM Poll will launch in early July in time to canvass voter preferences in the state’s July 14, 2020, Republican runoff for the U.S. Senate. AUM Poll will also measure Alabama voters’ opinions on significant political, social, and economic issues.

AUM students taking the survey course will have the opportunity to learn not only how to conduct a public opinion poll, but also how to analyze and interpret polling data, Hughes said.

“The survey data collected by students will then be used to provide information to the public,” he said. “We plan to disseminate the results to the general public and the media using a blog and other means.”

Dr. David Hughes

AUM Professor Andrew Cortell, chair of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, said Hughes’ extensive background in Southern, and particularly Alabama, politics and research methodology made him a natural fit for developing the course.

“Polling and analyzing public opinion build transferable skills,” Cortell said. “We are committed to providing students with hands-on learning opportunities to help advance their careers. Students will receive practical training in data collection and analysis that will give them the kinds of skills employers are increasingly looking for in job recruits.”

This summer, AUM students are taking all classes online, including the Survey Research Experience course, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Any admitted AUM student, either at the undergraduate or graduate level, can enroll in the new course without prerequisites and participate, Cortell said.

Dr. Andrew Cortell

“This course is an important new learning opportunity that will help students understand the changing current political and social climate,” he said. “During the fall semester, students will have the opportunity to also survey Alabama residents’ opinions and preferences on the 2020 presidential candidates and gain their perspectives on significant political, social, and economic issues.”

The summer course marks the first phase of the university’s polling initiative. AUM eventually plans to establish a polling center that will provide an ongoing poll to regularly offer insights into Alabama voters’ opinions on candidates and salient policy issues, Cortell said.

“Our hope is that this polling initiative and the courses that sustain it will make AUM a preferred university for any prospective student interested in politics,” Cortell said. “We’re also excited about the opportunity to give those interested in Alabama politics a better picture of where Alabama voters stand with respect to the candidates and policies at a given point in time.”