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Purdue Students Stepped Out of the Classroom and into the Polling Stations for Election Day

A Political Science Professor at Purdue sent his students to polling stations across the county for a class assignment. Their task was to collect voter data through an exit poll

Posted: Nov. 6, 2018 6:25 PM
Updated: Nov. 6, 2018 6:31 PM

A class of Purdue Political Science students got some real world experience at the polls.

Jay McCann, a Political Science Professor at Purdue sent his students to polling stations across the county for a class assignment. Their task was to collect voter data through an exit poll.

“Talking at the students only gets you so far, you know, if you can actually put them in the driver's seat and say, here, you know -- go look at data,” said McCann.

Students were in groups of two to three handing out surveys. The surveys are confidential and include questions about who voters are voting for and what brought them out to the polls.

Andie Slomka, a Purdue student sent to work the Purdue Memorial Union voting location, said she's happy with the way voters are responding to the survey.

“Most people are very willing and able to take the survey, we've had a few non-response people but otherwise people are very, very friendly, very willing to answer our questions,” said Slomka.

Not every student was stationed at a poll. As surveys came in, students back in the classroom began plugging in the information to start analyzing how this election will turn out.

Although they're working on predicting how different demographics are voting, Alex Pijanowski, a political science graduate teaching assistant, said what they didn't predict was the large voter turnout.

“Some of the kids have told me, as they've come back with packets, that there are more voters out than they expected. Some of them actually needed extras, we hadn't given them enough, they've run through them too quickly in four hours so that was encouraging,” said Pijanowski.

One thing that surprised McCann was the voting problems that happened when the polls first opened. He said it's hard to say exactly how it will affect the survey but when voting becomes difficult people tend to turn away.

“We know in political science that one of the biggest factors determining turnout is how convenient are the voting stations. Are they close to you? Do you gotta go out of your way? Do you gotta drive a long distance?,” said McCann. “And then the wait time... so if you gotta wait an hour... you know, a lot of people are just gonna say, you know what, that's not for me,” added McCann.

Information will be public after the election. With an unusually large voter turnout this election, students hope to compile demographic data on this year's election.

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