Transparency Event on Political Polling – 10/12 and 13

We at the Brown Institute are pleased to announce our Transparency Series for the Fall of 2018. Each event consists of a talk, usually on a Friday night, and a day-long workshop on the accompanying Saturday. The talk on Friday is open to the public and the Saturday workshop is restricted to a group of 25 J-school students (MS, MA or PhD).

For the first event we will consider political polls.

Our public talk on Friday night, October 12, will be given by Amanda Cox from the Upshot at the New York Times. She will discuss polling and its importance in political races. As the 2018 midterm election nears, we pore over opinion polls looking for subtle (and not so subtle) clues about how things will fare in November. When looking at the race for the house and for the senate, polls vary widely. Which polls are right? Or reliable? And what should we make of the Times’ new move to conduct its own realtime polling? To journalists, of course, the polls themselves aren’t the story, they help us tell a story. The narrative power of polls extends far beyond a single number on a given day. Taken collectively and in combination with other data, we can tell deep stories about the nature of our public’s opinion.

On Saturday October 13 from 10am-5pm, we will look at how to work with polls. Join Janie Valencia and Dhrumil Mehta who lead Pollapalooza at FiveThirtyEight for a glimpse into sources, tools and strategies for working with polls — starting at the very beginning with simple random samples and leading to the detailed models that are employed today. All the while we will emphasize how to find and tell interesting, novel stories with polls. No prior experience in statistics or data analysis is needed.

To attend the workshop on Saturday, please sign up at While the seminar Friday is open to the public, we request that you register for the Saturday day-long workshop as we are limited to 25 spaces.

The next two Transparency Series Events will cover voice interfaces (think Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant) and then “reporting on devices and apps” led by a team from Consumer Reports.