Castleton to offer Polling Institute

Castleton State College wants to be the new voice of Vermont and the place to go for research data.

Richard Clark, a recently hired political science professor, has also been named the director of the new Castleton Polling Institute.

The institute, according to Clark, is a means to generate public opinion.

“It’s a chance to expand democracy and get opinion that may not any other way be included,” Clark said in a recent interview.   

Questions about “the quality of life in Vermont,” economics, healthcare, global warming and well being are examples of issues to be surveyed using phone polling on campus, he said. 

Polling Institutes are not uncommon and can be found in many other states, but the Castleton Polling institute will be the only one in Vermont, he said.  

Castleton’s institute will be a teaching/research resource based out of Castleton for the students, community and state of Vermont, Clark said.

The goal of the program is to both generate revenue for the college, but perhaps more importantly to be used as a teaching and research tool for students, Clark said.

“It creates an opportunity for Castleton students to engage in Social Science research, hands on.  I want students to get experience analyzing and observing real data,” Clark said. 

The other goal of the program is the public service research perspective, he said.

“Within Vermont, we want Castleton College to be the place of public Vermont opinion,” he said.

Students asked about the new polling institute seem supportive.

“If it’s really beneficial for everyone and provides data that creates change in the community that needs to be changed I think it’s great,” said senior Allie Beckwith after being told of the institute.

So when is the new polling institute going to be in effect and needing helpers? Clark and President Dave Wolk, who has long sought to have a polling arm of Castleton State, are hoping it will be ready by the 2012 primary elections!

“The Polling Institute has been a dream of mine since I came to Castleton.  I convened a group of faculty members about 8 years ago, along with some media, political and corporate leaders in Vermont, to explore the idea,” Wolk said in an e-mailed response. “No college or university in Vermont has a polling institute, and all the privates are from out of state.  My goal from the outset has been to provide a public service through public opinion research, provide internship and paid student work opportunities, enhance the prominence of Castleton on the national map, and provide new learning experiences for students and faculty.” 

Wok also praised Clark,saying he’s “experienced, engaging, smart and savvy.”

The new polling institute will also be very involved with the Spartan newspaper. The Spartan plans to give Clark questions in the near future to poll the college community and report on the findings, Clark said. 

“I’m extremely honored and humble to get this opportunity. It has high expectations like it should and I’m excited about it,” Clark said.