By Kellie Shirk
With the same research that predicted the 2000 elections, Political Science 317 students won the Southwest Political Science Association Undergraduate Paper Competition this month.
“Who are the Non-Respondents?” placed first of 44 nominated papers from 38 schools.
Several students contributed to the research; the final coordinators of the paper were Matthew Singer, C.W. Ross, Elizabeth Esty, Jim Jeffries, Brigham Cannon and Beth Snell.
Their paper focused on the characteristics of people who refuse to participate in exit polls.
There is a concern with exit polls because as many as one-third to one-half of the people asked will decline to participate, said Matthew Singer, 23, a senior from Roseburg, Ore., majoring in political science.
During BYU”s exit poll last November, approximately one-third of the voters asked would not participate in the poll, he said.
“In order to make predictions, the general assumption is that the people that say no to exit polls have the same opinion as those that say yes,” Singer said.
Although the students could not get information from those that declined to participate, Singer said the students were able to write down the gender, race, approximate age, time of day and other relevant information to analyze the results.
The students found significant results, Singer said.
The older a person is the more likely he or she is to say no, Singer said.
Ethnic minorities are more likely to agree to participate, he said.
However, the time of day and whether people are asked inside or outside on a cold day does not make a difference, Singer said.
“If this pattern is not just in Utah, but is also true in other states, such as Florida, there is an inherit sense of bias in exit polls where the opinion of the elderly is understated and the opinions of minorities are overstated, which has consequences in predicting elections,” Singer said.
Although the coordinators were awarded $200 for their efforts, they also take with them other knowledge.
Jim Jeffries, 23, a senior from San Leandro, Calif., majoring in political science, said he had not realized how rigorous the research process would be until he started working on it.
“I now have an appreciation for how difficult it is to produce research,” Jeffries said.
Taylor Mammen also placed fifth in the competition for a paper he submitted himself.
Political science chair, Kelly Patterson, said the awards were well deserved.
“Their work was innovative and quite creative; they deserved the award,” he said. “We are pleased the research would be recognized in this manner.”