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Beyond the News

Presidential Brand Power

University Business, Oct 2011
Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, says the on-campus polling house is an important educational resource for students.

The presidential primary calendar is kicking off in just a couple months, and this is good news for those colleges and universities able to leverage the momentum of the presidential election process every four years to help gain visibility.

The University of New Hampshire takes advantage of its proximity to the New Hampshire primary by offering unique, hands-on political coursework. The UNH Survey Center conducts and disseminates survey research throughout the election. "The Survey Center brings tremendous visibility to the University of New Hampshire in primary years more than any other parts of the university combined, including athletics, in terms of citation in the media," says Andrew Smith, associate professor of political science and director of the UNH Survey Center. "That's a real value to the university."

The primary also gives students a front-row look at the campaign process. Every four years in the fall semester before the New Hampshire primary, Smith teaches a course covering the nomination process and importance of New Hampshire's role in it, and the history and political science of the New Hampshire primary. Students are encouraged to work outside of class with a campaign of their choice. "It helps them really understand what makes a campaign work and what doesn't," he says.

"Students don't go to an undergraduate university to become George Gallup, but [the poll] has been an important vehicle." –Lee Miringoff, Marist College

Other institutions in the Northeast, namely Quinnipiac University (Conn.) and Marist College (N.Y.), house polls that garner national attention—especially during election season. Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, says the Marist Poll is first and foremost an educational resource for students, but that it has the added benefit of having a newsworthy component. "It helps generate name recognition in a positive way." Survey results are sent out to thousands of media contacts, and Miringoff is regularly asked to describe poll results to major news outlets. "It's a wonderful branding of a college, and when information goes out from a variety of [campus] sources, the name recognition and the credibility that we have is very important for laying a foundation for all those things," Miringoff adds.

And while this visibility may not directly impact students' college choice, the value is still there. "Students don't go to an undergraduate university to become George Gallup," he says. "But [the poll] has been an important vehicle."