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Understanding Polling Numbers In 2020

In partnership with:
With support from: Lowell Institute
Date and time
Monday, August 17, 2020

Throughout election cycles poll results appear to move up and down rapidly. They can often be confusing, especially when the methodology is unclear. How can we better read and understand political polls? A panel of experts sits down with WGBH News Digital Editor Laura Colarusso to examine how these numbers are determined, in what ways campaigns react to polls, how journalists interpret the numbers and why we put so much stock in polling during elections. Guest speakers are Gary Langer, founder of Langer Research Associates and former director of polling at ABC News; Wilnelia Rivera, president at Rivera Consulting, Inc. and lead on Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley's 2016 campaign; and James Pindell, political reporter at The Boston Globe.

James Pindell is a political reporter at The Boston Globe covering his sixth presidential election. He is also a WBUR political analyst and comments on politics on all three cable news networks on a nearly daily basis. The Washington Post called him the "Insider's Insider" for his coverage of New Hampshire politics and he is the only reporter to cover both the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary as a beat for local outlets. For the past decade, he has also written the politics column for New Hampshire Magazine. Previously he spent nearly 5 years at WMUR-TV, where he covered New Hampshire politics. Before that, was the publisher of New Hampshire Political Report, a subscription newsletter for political insiders. During the 2008 elections, he was the editor of a start-up called Politicker, which had state political new websites in 17 states. He has also worked for The Des Moines Register, the New Hampshire Union Leader, Campaigns and Elections Magazine, and the Indianapolis Star. His work covering the West Virginia State House for a newspaper there was the basis of a cover story for American Journalism Review. He is a graduate of Drake University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
Wilnelia Rivera, President of Rivera Consulting, Inc., leads a movement building firm that inspires and enables social change while operationalizing solutions for the 21st century. Rivera is a political strategist, urban planner, and project management professional. Rivera holds a B.A. in International Relations, a B.A. in Women's Studies, and an M.A. in Urban and Environmental Policy & Planning from Tufts University, and is a past Mel King Fellowship recipient at Massachusetts Institute for Technology’s CoLab, where she focused on public policy research. Recently, she was recognized by Non-Profit Quarterly, nationally, and Boston Magazine, locally, for her movement building plan for social change and democracy and what it means for women of color to be the pioneers of our movement and democracy overall.
Gary Langer is an internationally recognized public opinion researcher with expertise in analysis of political, policy, economic and social attitudes, questionnaire design and survey methodology and management. Langer, a longtime director of polling at ABC News, has overseen and analyzed more than 750 surveys on a broad range of topics. Langer has won two Emmy awards and received nine Emmy nominations. He’s authored or co-authored nearly 30 scholarly papers and given scores of invited presentations on the meaning and measurement of public attitudes. Langer is a member of the Board of Directors of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, a trustee of the National Council on Public Polls and past president of the New York chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research.