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Student Spotlight


Meagan Cole

With the Presidential election up and coming, veteran Olivia Rhodin has worked as a part of the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research’s calling center at Roanoke College for over a year now. Olivia is a Junior History major with an Education minor from Redding, CT, and this year, she, under the supervision of Dr. Harry Wilson, is voluntarily contacting residents within the Commonwealth of Virginia to answer a brief political survey. According to Olivia, who has operated the survey 8 times now, “the current survey is on the Presidential election and other political issues going on. The other surveys in the past year have been on topics such as religion and the economy.”

How is this done? Roanoke College has a separate server for the purpose of randomly calibrating individual phone numbers, beginning with specific area codes, and then asking willing responders within a balanced demographic certain questions pertaining to the upcoming Presidential election. The goal is to calculate the polls for which candidate, Obama or Romney, is more likely to win based on the responses received from the completed survey. Some expected reasons accounted for “inaccuracy” include a low response rate from certain demographics or the inability to contact cell phone users. In summary, Olivia says, “The results show the opinions of people throughout Virginia on the questions that we ask.” The results will be announced by Dr. Wilson at a conference in Washington DC on October 30th, and may also be found online as the previous Roanoke College results were announced.

Clearly, what Olivia does is extremely important, educational, and even gives back to the community. “Being a caller to me is dealing with the variety of people who we call and all of the answers that they give,” so much so that the venture made the local news. To learn more, check out the recent story run during the 5 o’clock block by WDBJ-7’s broadcasting station, and get to be just as informed about who might be in office in your future.