R-MC takes to the field for exit polling

On Nov. 4, R-MC students woke up bright and early to help with an exit poll of Hanover County, a key location in the 7th District race. The leading faculty organizers of the poll were R-MC’s Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Lauren Bell and visiting Professor of Political Science Dr. Elliott Fullmer.

Media sponsors of the poll included The Herald Progress and Stinger Radio.The poll’s results were in the margin of error for the U.S. Senate election, the House general election and the House special election.

In the 7th District general election race, the R-MC exit poll predicted Dave Brat to take 67.4 percent of the vote in Hanover County with Jack Trammell taking 30.6 percent and James Carr 1.3 percent.

These results were only a few points off from the official election results, where Brat captured 69.5 percent, Trammell 28.7 percent and Carr 1.7 percent.

Bell had previously conducted exit polls in her first five years at R-MC (2000-2005), and she told The Yellow Jacket that she was able to do an exit poll this year in part because of the help of visiting professor Fullmer.

Fullmer had experience dealing with exit poll data in an article he published about the 2008 presidential nomination cycle.

Bell noted the professor versus professor race in the 7th District also helped to generate student volunteers to help in the exit poll.

“With the Brat-Trammell race increasing student interest generally in the midterm elections,” Bell said, “it seemed like a great time to dust-off the old exit poll and update it and get back out in the field.”

Bell noted that although the local hype centered on the implications of the poll for the 7th District race, one of the most interesting results of the exit poll concerned the Virginia Senate contest.

“Our data were telling us throughout the day that Senator Warner was going to struggle in his re-election bid,” Bell said. “Hanover County’s a very conservative county, but in both of those cases [2001 and 2008] he got just about 50 percent of the vote.”

Bell said when the poll results came in the morning of Election Day, Warner’s totals were well under where he had polled in prior contests.

“He was at 33, 34; ultimately, he ended up at about 36 percent,” Bell said. “That said to us, this is not a cakewalk for him.”

Fullmer told The Yellow Jacket that the poll also contained some interesting results regarding the June primary between Brat and Eric Cantor.

“On election night, one thing Dean Bell and I noticed was that 18 percent of self- identified Democrats in Hanover County claimed to have voted in the Republican primary for the 7th district for Dave Brat,” Fullmer said.

“Which was interesting, because it provided perhaps some preliminary evidence that some of these votes were Democrats voting against Eric Cantor, either just to express their dislike of Cantor or they were actively trying to sabotage the race.”

There was plenty of enthusiasm from R-MC students about participating in the poll.

Bell said many of the students were ready to go right as the polls were opening.

“Of the 72 students who went out in the field, 40 of them were at the Mullen Board Room ready to administer the poll between 6:40 and 7:15. To me, that’s phenomenal,” Bell said.

“In my experience, students never get up that early.”

Fullmer expressed that although students may have been hesitant at first, they really enjoyed participating in the poll.

“I thought that a lot of students weren’t quite sure what they were getting into at first, and they left with a bit of trepidation,” Fullmer said.

“But then when they got back, almost universally everybody seemed more excited than when they left.”

-Henry Ashton ’15, Senior Politics/Opinions Editor

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