The Spring-semester Pack Poll indicated that most N.C. State students would prefer an equal distribution of wealth in the United States, about half disapprove of the government spying on civilians and 40 percent prefer eastern-style instead of western-style barbeque among other things.
Associate Professor of public and international affairs, Michael Cobb, and a number of his students conducted the poll that surveyed more than a thousand N.C. State undergraduate students, a representative sample, about their views concerning climate change, foreign policy and the National Security Agency’s data-collection practices.
The featured survey on the Pack Poll website concerned wealth distribution in the U.S. Respondents were shown a number of pie charts that represented the wealth distribution of the U.S., Norway and one that signified an almost equal distribution of wealth and were asked to choose which one represented the U.S. and which distribution would result in the most successful nation.
Almost 45 percent of the students correctly identified the chart that represented the U.S., but only 9 percent agreed that was the wealth distribution needed to be successful, according to the Pack Poll website.
Every semester, Cobb works with a group of his students to create a number of public opinion surveys that poll the opinions of other students regarding current issues. The polls have generated some fascinating findings, according to Cobb.
“Something interesting that we have noticed in the past few years is that students are incredibly liberal on social issues but call themselves conservative on average,” Cobb said. “For one survey, we asked students to place themselves ideologically on social issues versus economic issues. The majority said that they are economic conservatives but social liberals but if we just asked the generic question of ‘are you a liberal’ or ‘are you a conservative,’ they tend to lean toward conservative.”
Though there are 4-5 other polls conducted throughout the year, Cobb said they have one big poll per semester that contains a large number of questions and a larger sample size.
These small polls are typically about something that has just recently come out in the news. For example, the recent outing of the Duke University porn star was a topic that Cobb and his students surveyed N.C. State students about.
The Pack Poll is a representative survey of campus opinions about whatever we are polling about, and that is an important resource, Cobb said.
“I think that it is important for students to know where other students stand regarding current issues,” Cobb said. “So representative polling gives us a good example of the ideals of other people.”
Cobb said he teaches his students how to be better consumers and producers of polling survey opinion data.
“My job is to teach the students everything about the enterprise,” Cobb said. “I teach them how to understand and measure the series of attitudes that are associated with this sort of blind polling.”