La Follette Policy Poll data offers learning opportunity for students

Logo for La Follette Policy Poll

The results of the La Follette Policy Poll, released in January, paint a revealing portrait of Wisconsinites’ opinions on public policy in the lead-up to Wisconsin’s mid-term elections — elections that could affect the national balance of power.

In her Milwaukee Journal Sentinel column announcing the results, La Follette School Professor and Director Susan Yackee explained one of the survey’s major goals. “The poll helps us understand both consensus and divisions in our state, as well as shedding light on the topics that the political parties and candidates ought to be talking about most during 2022.”

In addition to helping shape the statewide conversation on policy, the poll results have also provided an experiential learning opportunity for La Follette students. Professor Manny Teodoro used the poll data during the spring semester, creating a class project for U.S. Environmental Governance (PA 366) that asked students to dig into poll results related to water quality and climate change.

How did it all go? “Beautifully!” says Teodoro.

“We discussed the fact that a hypothesis must have a possible negative answer. In other words, it must be falsifiable. In the projects, students had to develop falsifiable hypotheses about the relationships between the salience of climate change policy and a variety of variables such as age, income, and party identification.”

The project was a big hit with students. “I’ve done similar projects before with national data,” says Teodoro. “But this was local. That made it immediate and personal. And we weren’t working with data that had been studied a thousand times before. No one had ever done this kind of analysis with this data. Students understood that whatever they found, they would be the first to discover it. They weren’t learning about research; they were doing research.”

Assistant Professor Ross Milton is planning to use the poll results this fall in Introduction to Statistical Methods for Public Policy Analysis (PA 818). “The poll data will provide basic statistical examples that students will find interesting. The results will serve as the starting point for a discussion of sampling procedures. We will also talk about the different roles statistics play in public policy, including the importance of understanding what issues people care about. I’m looking forward to discussing the poll results in that context.”

If you’re interested in constructing your own graphical analyses, the poll data is available to the public on Tableau. Or you can download the complete results here. The La Follette Policy Poll was made possible by the Kohl Initiative.