PublicMind™ Polls Politics, Iraq, Driving Habits, Sopranos

The University’s polling group, PublicMind™, this year conducted four dozen studies on topics ranging from approval of national and state officials to driving habits, bear hunting, the war in Iraq, candidates for president and “The Sopranos.”

Consequently, PublicMind research generated national and statewide media attention. PublicMind associates provided interviews, analysis and commentary to media as diverse as The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Newswires, WABC-TV, the British Consulate, C-SPAN,, Gannett News Services, National Public Radio, USA Today and The New York Times, which cited the PublicMind poll or quoted its director, Peter Woolley, political science (Flor), on eight occasions.

The Sopranos” poll showed that New Jerseyans watched the mob show more than the rest of the country: three out of five New Jerseyans (60 percent) said they had watched the show, while three of five nationally (59 percent) said that they had never seen it. When it came to ending the series and the possibility of killing off the protagonist, Tony Soprano, the show’s followers gave him the thumbs up (by a 2-to-1 margin, in New Jersey 43 percent–21 percent and nationally, 40 percent–21 percent).  Those who watched many episodes were twice as likely as more casual viewers to prefer that he live. “Tony would seem to be the poster child for the death penalty,” said Gary Radford, communication (Flor) and editor of The Atlantic Journal of Communication. “Perhaps they see a glimmer of goodness in him. Perhaps they identify with his constant struggle to keep his family and his business together in the jungle that is mob life.”

Since the Associated Press regularly reports PublicMind research, FDU was featured in newspapers across the country including the San Jose Mercury News, Times Picayune, Houston Chronicle, Kansas City Star, Miami Herald and the San Luis Obispo Tribune. PublicMind continues to translate and circulate its findings in Spanish and has generated coverage in such Spanish-language media as El Diario and In addition, the PublicMind Web pages now generate more than 20,000 page views a month. “That’s a pretty active Web site,” said Emilio Javier, graduate assistant to the PublicMind. “New material appears regularly, sometimes every day, and reporters and activists take advantage of it.”

Among many private contracts and grants won this past year by PublicMind was one from New Jersey’s Division of Highway Traffic Safety to survey residents about their driving habits, including touchy topics like speeding, talking on cell phones, driving after drinking and wearing seatbelts. New Jerseyans believe themselves to be “above average” in comparison to drivers from New York and Pennsylvania. Yet on the other hand, residents of Delaware said New Jersey drivers are the worst among all drivers in their neighboring states.

Still, it wasn’t PublicMind’s survey of Delaware drivers that made the big splash in the First State. Investigating support for presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Joe Biden on his home turf raised eyebrows. Repeated measures of Delaware voters showed they strongly preferred Hillary Clinton over Biden.

PublicMind was most recently awarded financial support from the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce to investigate, in conjunction with Rutgers University’s Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, voter attitudes about trust in government, concerns about the influence of private money on the legislative process, views on public financing for legislative campaigns and opinions about New Jersey’s experimental Clean Elections legislation. Those results were released at a Trenton press conference in late November 2007.

PublicMind, along with the College at Florham Library, also began a breakfast lecture series, “Politics on the PublicMind,” designed to provide the opportunity for students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni and the communities surrounding the College at Florham to listen to, learn from and interact with noteworthy practitioners of politics. This kick-off topic was “The Agony and Ecstasy of the New Early Primary Schedule,” and in October featured Mark Campbell, the national political director for the Rudy Guiliani campaign, and in November, Mark Alexander, the New Jersey political adviser to Barack Obama.

Finally, PublicMind continued to facilitate faculty omnibus research. “We look forward to working with more faculty and a broader range of topics that reflect the many specialities and talents of our faculty,” said Woolley. “And of course, we’re always open to suggestions on poll topics from everyone, especially if you can top ‘The Sopranos.’”

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