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Students Take a Hand in Leavey Center’s Election Day Exit Polling

Political science majors Katy Kawauchi and Nathan Aderhold have more than an academic interest in California’s Nov. 2 gubernatorial election. The two Loyola Marymount University seniors will be part of a crew collecting and analyzing exit poll data for the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles. This year’s poll is the fifth in the series “Los Angeles Votes,” which includes the 2005 mayoral primary and general contest and the 2008 presidential primary and general election.

LCSLA - exit polling 2010“It’s really a great atmosphere,” said Kawauchi, who has had a lifelong interest in electoral politics. “The researchers at the Leavey Center make a high priority of getting students involved in the process, and they’re very willing to teach research methods. They’ve been really encouraging through the process.”

Approximately 150 LMU students will distribute and collect exit poll surveys in selected precincts and  submit the data for analysis. The surveys will examine voters’ preferences on the candidates for governor as well as statewide propositions. The poll is the only one of its kind in Los Angeles and last year’s data garnered much attention from media outlets.

The survey employs a racially stratified model developed by the Leavey Center. “It’s a way to reduce the margin of error,” said Aderhold, who has been working to find suitable precincts with Brianne Gilbert, senior research associate, and Melissa Woehrstein, research assistant. By polling voters in particular areas of Los Angeles, the survey is able to yield more accurate data on voting patterns. “In our exit polls, we do our best to capture clusters of voters in more racially homogenous areas,” said Gilbert. “For example, we have designated precincts in predominantly white, black, Latino, and Asian neighborhoods, as well as mixed-race precincts. In a city as diverse as Los Angeles, standard methods of sampling do not give as accurate or representative data, so the Leavey Center had to be creative – and more scientific – in its selection.”

In an ethical dimension to the study, the Leavey Center requires all students participating in the poll to complete the National Institutes of Health online course on Protecting Human Research Participants.   

The Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles was founded in 1996 with a grant from the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation. For more information about the center, click here

Posted Oct. 25, 2010