Setting the stage for the upcoming presidential election year.
A contentious year in NJ and beyond.
Christie and Booker fare well in blue Jersey.
Supreme Court cases and an uneven year for President Obama.
Many national polls complemented our NJ polls, reflecting a national interest in Christie, gambling, and Jersey Shore.
We tracked Chris Christie's dramatic proposals in New Jersey and the race for Joe Biden's Senate seat in Delaware.
Chris Christie pulled even with Jon Corzine and eventually won.
Presidential prospects in New Jersey and in Delaware were a year-long focus.
We tracked governors' popularity, support for the Iraq war, and early indications about the 2008 primaries.
Menendez' victory reflected national issues, and we began publishing Delaware-based findings in addition to New Jersey.
Candidates contended to replace Richard Codey as NJ Governor.
A contentious presidential election dominated the radar screen.
We tracked consumer issues and details of congressional elections.
Ethics and budget issues dominated our New Jersey research scene.
In the inaugural year of PublicMind polling, we published results on the dimensions and causes of McGreevey's victory, on energy and other public policy issues, and on the Sopranos!
Launched in the spring of 2001, PublicMind has fielded dozens of polls every year thereafter, and made several dozen press releases each year. It conducts national and statewide public opinion surveys, as well as targeted market research investigations for corporations and non-profits. PublicMind researchers present their findings regularly at academic conferences, publish their work in academic journals, and have provoked thousands of articles in print.
The research group was founded at FDU in the fall of 2000 by five people, several of whom were political scientists: Mark Campbell, Peter J. Woolley, Stephen A. Salmore, Bruce Larson, and Joseph Calvanelli.
Campbell (Ed.D., U. Pennsylvania), with a long background in campaign management and recently hired at FDU as Sr. Vice President for Government Affairs proposed the idea of a polling organization in the fall of 2000, and secured the enthusiastic support of J. Michael Adams, the new president of the University, as well as a minimal amount of funding from the University. Campbell quickly attracted the support of others including Peter J. Woolley (Ph.D., U. Pittsburgh), then chair of the Dept. of Social Sciences at FDU’s Becton College of Arts and Sciences, and FDU alumnus Joseph Calvanelli (MBA, 1985), president and owner of the privately held market research and data collection firm TMR Inc. (Telephone Market Research), later to become OpinionAmerica Group, Inc.
Woolley recruited indispensible support from FDU political scientist Bruce Larson (Ph.D. U. Virginia), a specialist in campaigns and elections, and from Stephen A. Salmore (Ph.D, NYU), professor emeritus of political science at Rutgers University, himself a co-founder in 1971 of the Eagleton Poll at Rutgers, co-author of several works including New Jersey Politics and Government: Suburban Politics Comes of Age, and a pollster with a national reputation. Salmore became a mentor to the group as well as a frequent public commentator for them. Other members of the university necessarily supported the effort as well, including William Kennedy the university’s first Webmaster, the staff of the public relations department and WFDU radio.
The research group decided that, though it would inevitably measure political campaigns, it would also investigate popular culture and consumer behavior. Woolley came up with the brand name “ PublicMind,” and Campbell commissioned a logo to match the name. Together they wrote a mission statement for the newly christened PublicMind “ to advance public discourse by publicizing interesting and controversial data and analyses” by conducting “ polling, survey, and other research on politics, society, popular culture, consumer and economic trends.”
The team launched its first field work in the spring of 2001 in the heat of a close Republican primary campaign for governor of New Jersey. Mark Campbell, who had a successful but partisan past as a professional strategist for dozens of Republican candidates, quickly realized that he had to distance himself from the operation. Thus, Woolley took the administrative lead, serving as executive director for a decade, and nurturing the upstart polling operation to a national reputation.
Larson continued as the primary analyst until he took an appointment at Gettysburg College. He was eventually replaced by Dr. Krista Jenkins (Ph.D, Rutgers U.) a specialist in gender and youth voting behaviors, and Dr. Daniel Cassino (Ph.D, Stony Brook), a political psychologist who became Director of Experimental Polling. Campbell resigned from the university in August 2005 to return to campaign consulting. Stephen Salmore died in Sept. 2005.
In the first ten years of operation, PublicMind made over 300 press releases, on topics from campaigns to television. The group researched subjects from automobile safety, eminent domain and gambling to the impact of candidates’ gender on voters, and even the impact on New Jersey of the TV shows, The Sopranos and Jersey Shore.
The group’s opinion measurements led to thousands of interviews for print, radio and TV and PublicMind distinguished itself among opinion research groups with a number of seminal findings in politics and pop culture. As a result, Woolley and his colleagues were cited in news outlets from the Sydney Morning Herald and Defense News to the Washington Post and the Trenton Times, from New Jersey News to Cable News Network, and in newspapers from Alaska’s Ketchikan Daily News to the Miami Herald.
· In 2001 found that New Jerseyans were tuned in to the TV drama The Sopranos much more than the rest of the country, and that only a third of viewers nationwide realized the show was set in New Jersey. But, moreover, viewers who watched The Sopranos, whether in New Jersey or nationwide were more likely than non-viewers to believe that the state had more crime and more dishonest politicians than other states.
· In 2002 PublicMind reported first that Democratic incumbent US Senator Bob Torricelli was actually losing late in the campaign to an unseasoned, Republican challenger, Doug Forrester. PublicMind also reported that New Jersey voters, by better than a two-to-one margin, found Torricelli’s challenger to be the more honest of the two. Subsequently, Torricelli withdrew from the race to be replaced on the ballot by former Sen. Frank Lautenberg, though it was statutorily past the deadline to make any substitution.
· In 2003 PublicMind reported that Gov. Jim McGreevey, who a year later would resign from office, was toxic for the state’s Democratic candidates for legislative office, as half of voters said they would be less likely to vote for anyone who was a strong supporter of the governor.
· In 2004, at a time when California was in the process of recalling its Gov. Grey Davis to replace him with Arnold Schwarzenegger, PublicMind found that 70% of New Jersey voters thought their own exceedingly difficult and unlikely recall process should NOT be made easier. This was despite that the same survey found 61% of New Jersey voters said their own Gov. James McGreevey, soon to resign in the midst of multiple scandals, did not deserve re-election.
· In 2005 PublicMind showed that Gov. Richard Codey, who had been pushed out of the way for the Democratic nomination for governor by US Sen. Jon Corzine, would easily defeat the Republican challenger.
· In 2006 PublicMind anticipated, through the use of priming experiments, that the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in New Jersey, Tom Kean, Jr. would relinquish his early lead in the polls to Democrat Bob Menendez because of the profound unpopularity of then Pres. George W. Bush and the U.S. war in Iraq.
· In late 2007 PublicMind also found that US Senator, and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden was trailing Hillary Clinton by 13 points in his home state of Delaware among Democratic voters expressing their presidential preferences. Biden was tied with Sen. Barack Obama, the eventual winner
· In 2007 reported that “ just two percent of New Jersey voters think the state has fewer dishonest politicians than other states�.” and, worse, that “ a sizable majority [of New Jersey voters]--62%--[said] their state is more polluted than others” and that 42% of people around the country agreed.
· In 2007 PublicMind also found that, while Gov. Jon Corzine was recuperating from serious injuries from an automobile crash, two-thirds of New Jersey voters gave FDU alumnus and acting governor, Richard Codey, a job rating of “ excellent” or “ good.” Another 16% rated his performance as only fair and just 3% rated his performance as “ poor.”
· In the 2008 presidential election PublicMind was the only organization to poll voters in Delaware and Alaska in order to compare voter attitudes towards vice-presidential candidates Joe Biden and Sarah Palin who hailed from Delaware and Alaska. PublicMind showed that, while both candidates were exceptionally popular in their own state, Alaskan voters saw Joe Biden of Delaware as the candidate better suited to become president.
· In 2008 PublicMind also polled Democratic presidential primary races between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and concluded, contrary to many polls, that a significant portion of US voters were not ready for a woman as president.
· In 2008 first reported that Gov. Jon Corzine’s plan to privatize the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway was going nowhere with public opinion in the state.
· In 2009 PublicMind researchers showed that support for a third party candidate for governor was systematically over-estimated by pollsters simply by the act of identifying the candidate as “ the independent” in telephone interviews.
· Also in 2009, PublicMind’s Director for Experimental Research, Dan Cassino, published the book Consuming Politics: Jon Stewart, Branding, and the Youth Vote in America examining the political attitudes of the USA’s youngest voters.
· Also in 2009, PublicMind researchers presented their findings to the American Association of Public Opinion Research, having compared the accuracy of live telephone interviews to automated telephone interviews to web-based interviews in 33 US Senate races.
· In 2010 twice polled the Delaware race for US Senate pitting FDU alumna Christine O’Donnell against Chris Coons.
· In 2010 showed that most voters, contrary to the views of the Supreme Court itself, supported the idea of televising oral arguments held before the nine Justices.
· In 2011, PublicMind research demonstrated that ideological news sources, including FOX and MSNBC, left their consumers less well-informed than all other news sources. The press release went viral, sparking hundreds of news stories, hundreds of thousands of comments, and more than a hundred thousand unique page views of the original analyses.
· In 2011 PublicMind also helped to launch, with Prof. Bruce Peabody, the Project on Popular Constitutionalism, a significant component of which was to measure public opinion on cases pending before the US Supreme Court.
· In 2011 PublicMind researchers also demonstrated that, contrary to the repeated and vociferous charges of many New Jersey politicians, including Gov. Chris Christie, the reality TV show Jersey Shore was not hurting New Jersey’s image. Peter Woolley summed up, saying, “ ... the show isn’t hurting the nation’s view of the state. In fact, it may be promoting one of the state’s best features -- not Snooki, but the shore...”
· In 2012, in response to critics of its earlier work on news sources and knowledge, PublicMind replicated its research and demonstrated, again, that ideological news sources are less effective at informing people of current political and economic events than other sources.
· In 2012, Gov. Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker teamed up to make a video in response to FDU poll numbers showing Christie's support at sustained high levels and Woolley’s remark about those numbers to the Star-Ledger that they wouldn’t improve unless Christie, like Booker, ran into a burning building to save someone. The video was made for New Jersey’s annual Legislative Correspondents Dinner but quickly went viral.