Look, politics lately has been…a lot. Like most political scientists, your students may be overwhelmed trying to follow everything going on. Fortunately, it is October, which means it is David S. Pumpkins season – and I’ve got a fun exercise using David S Pumpkins to teach some ideas about public opinion polling.
(Don’t know the Tom Hanks’ SNL skit? You are in for a treat:
After watching David S. Pumpkins with a class, I’d start by asking the same line as he does – “any questions?” This is an example of an open-ended question, which is typically more associated with interviews. I’d explain the difference between open ended and closed ended questions, and how we’ve developed closed ended questions and surveys to measure public opinion and behavior.
Next, I’d ask students to imagine they were conducting a customer satisfaction survey for the 100 Floors of Freight ride. As folks left the ride, we could conduct a survey about their opinions of the ride. I’d relate this to exit polls, which are asked as voters leave the voting booth. I’d tell students we’d want to think about our sample and population of customers to create a representative sample. We’d also need to decide what mode for our survey.
Once we’ve thought about these basics of survey design, I’d have a few example questions we might ask on the survey. For instance, we might ask “How in the weeds are you with David S. Pumpkins?” and explain to students the concept of a Likert scale. And we might ask folks their opinions of the skeletons, similar to the idea of an approval rating for the President or other politicians. We could also talk about how we’d want to avoid bias in our question design – for instance, we wouldn’t want a question that was leading: “Is David S Pumpkins the best thing ever to happen to October?” (Although the correct answer is obviously yes).
Hopefully this provides a fun, lighter exercise in the midst of our political season. Any questions?
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