Prof Runs GOP Debate Focus Group on Campus

January 31, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

One of the dial tests used in Friday night's debate focus group. (PHOTO BY ELISABETH BRUBAKER / THE DAILY MUSTANG)

One of the dial tests used in Friday night's debate focus group. (PHOTO BY ELISABETH BRUBAKER / THE DAILY MUSTANG)

By Elisabeth Brubaker

SMU Professor Dr. Rita Kirk held a focus group in Umphrey Lee Friday night to study the Republican reaction to the Belo debate. Kirk recruited 30 Republicans- both first time and repeat voters to participate in the focus group during the GOP Debate.

Kirk has been doing research for over 20 years. CNN first hired Kirk for the debates during the presidential election primaries. This past weekend she brought her research back to the Hilltop only one day after going to Ohio to dial test the President’s State of the Union address.

The focus groups are used to “dial test” a particular speech or event. Each participant is given a dial to record their perceptions of the candidates (or the President) at any moment throughout the speech or debate.

Kirk loves analyzing the data afterwards. During the candidates’ closing statements Kirk was able to see who did the best overall. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison had the highest rating with 73 out of 100. Governor Rick Perry got a 67 and Debra Medina got a 63.

Some participants offered their opinions of the dial testing and candidates after the debate. Watch the videos for their reactions.

(Editor’s note: Elisabeth Brubaker is a student assistant for Dr. Kirk’s research study.)

One participant said this about the “jeopardy” portion of the debate:

Another participant discussed how she reads the candidates.

Politics blog: SMU Contributes to CNN Debate Coverage

October 17, 2008 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Donnie Wyar

As the debate portion of this election cycle concluded Wednesday, many voters’ eyes will be closely following poll results in the days leading up to the election less than three weeks away.

Anyone watching the four debates on CNN has seen a real-time chart across the bottom of the screen. The line-graph, which provides instant feedback by monitoring the responses from undecided voters in focus groups selected by the network, was recently mentioned in the Wall Street Journal and the Dallas Morning News.

Drs. Rita Kirk and Dan Schill, professors in SMU’s division of corporate communications and public affairs, are responsible for conducting the studies for CNN and providing those instant results live from Columbus, Ohio, with the help of students Lizzy Brubaker, Elizabeth Langdon, and Rachael Russell.

Langdon, a junior, recent transfer from the University of Central Florida and soon-to be CCPA major, found time to make a difference despite being a member of the rowing team with its off-season 20-hour per week training regimen.

She said the opportunities and connections for SMU students to get out in the real world and obtain job experience “can get you anywhere,” but young people – and students especially – should acknowledge their responsibility to get involved in this election.

“I think it is essential right now,” Langdon said, “but I don’t think a lot of people realize that.

“Being involved is the most important thing,” she said.

Russell, a senior CCPA major and admitted political-news junkie, has worked as head research assistant for Schill and Kirk during the debates. She also answered the call to get involved in what she called a “remarkable experience.”

She, too, found it important for young people to get out to the polls, after making up their own minds.

“Politics is not a place for peer pressure,” she said. Instead, “The election gives young people the opportunity to make decisions for themselves.”

More than anything, Russell said, “Its important that you vote – volunteering and getting involved is great, but bottom line, just vote and make that the priority.”