By Katharine Webster
Who’s more popular, Tom Brady or Dunkin’ Donuts?
The answer: Dunkin’ had a higher favorability rating than Brady, even before the quarterback who led the New England Patriots to six Super Bowl victories decided to sign with Tampa Bay.
“That’s such a Massachusetts thing,” says graduating senior Madeline Hertz, who suggested adding the approve/disapprove questions about Brady and Dunkin’.
Dyck and Asst. Prof. John Cluverius
, the associate director, discuss the surveys they’re working on in every class they teach, from Introduction to American Politics to Quantitative Research Methods, so that students understand that research is “a living, breathing thing that we’re doing right now,” Cluverius says.
“That’s extremely engaging for students,” he says. “We have more and more students every year who are interested in polling and in being a part of the work we’re doing. And every time we bring students into the process, we create a better survey.”
Hertz took Survey Research with Dyck last fall, and when he said that he was looking for student interns, she applied. Her first assignment was to enter data from a survey for her hometown of Andover, Mass., on residents’ satisfaction with town services. But Dyck and Cluverius soon realized that Hertz could do more, and that she excelled at writing questions that were both clear and neutral.
Hertz says she relished the chance to apply what she had learned about question wording in Dyck’s class. Now, she’s planning to apply to graduate schools to study statistical research methods in the social sciences.
“Working with Josh and John was great. They’re fantastic, enthusiastic professors who were willing to include me in whatever they’re doing. I both realized that I’m really capable and really interested, and that there’s a lot more I can learn,” she says.
UMass Lowell was the only organization to poll nationally that week, and the results got widespread attention from media organizations and the candidates’ campaigns.
One fun finding, a follow-up on the February poll: Former Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski had a higher favorability rating than Brady after both had signed with Tampa Bay.
Kilpatrick analyzed a subset of data on football, concussions and CTE
, a degenerative brain condition caused by repeated head impacts, from a 2017 UML/Washington Post survey about Americans’ attitudes toward sports. She ended by drafting a research paper on the results with Dyck, Cluverius and Prof. Jeffrey Gerson
that they are submitting to scholarly journals: “Friday Night Politics: Football Bans and American Polarization.”
She says the experience helped her to get a paid summer internship with a professional polling firm, The Mellman Group, which does survey research for political candidates and organizations, businesses and nonprofits.
“I liked this project because it started off where I was most comfortable: the data analysis, the math. Then I eased into the writing of a formal research paper,” she says. “Now, I’m at a job and I know what I’m doing.”
Kilpatrick is already starting background research for another survey that will dig into why many Americans believe a woman can’t win the presidency and how that belief affects their voting.
Cluverius says students are endlessly curious about such social questions – and the center is there to help them find the answers.
“Wherever students want to be involved, we want to welcome them and nourish their entrepreneurial spirit,” Cluverius says. “The only limit is the student’s imagination.”