After more than five years, Sacred Heart reinstates poll center
FAIRFIELD — In the early 2000s, Sacred Heart University partnered with the Center for Research and Public Policy and had a polling center that measured public opinion on a range of topics.
“In those years they were national polls, whatever the topic du jour was,” said Michael Vigeant, a former employee of the Center for Research and Public Policy.
However, the partnership ended in 2009. Also that year, Vigeant founded his own company, which in 2013 became GreatBlue Research and Vigeant, a Sacred Heart alumnus, became CEO.
“I always had an interested in re-establishing a relationship with Sacred Heart,” Vigeant said. “About a year or two ago, at a Sacred Heart function I was talking with Dr. Petillo and some staff, and I brought up that I used to work the poll when it existed.”
Petillo and members of the Sacred Heart faculty happened to share Vigeant’s interest in bringing some sort of polling program back.
“A number of us thought it would be an opportune time to reinvigorate that program,” said Lesley A. DeNardis, executive director of Sacred Heart’s Institute for Public Policy which, as of 2017, is working with GreatBlue to conduct polls. “We felt that Connecticut was at a critical crossroads in terms of the magnitude of issues facing the state.”
The institute was formed this year with the goal of engaging Connecticut residents primarily on issues facing the state, rather than taking a national approach as the university’s formal polling place had.
Its inaugural poll was conducted between Oct. 3 and 12 by completing interviews with 1,000 Connecticut residents — done from GreatBlue’s call center in Cromwell — chosen proportionately based on population distribution throughout the state. GreatBlue also uses digital polling to reach a broader demographic.
Representatives from GreatBlue worked closely with faculty at Sacred Heart to develop a set of questions and then compile the data that was received.
Questions focused quality of life in Connecticut, the state’s budget crisis, how the state can become more business friendly and national issues including thoughts on NFL protests of the National Anthem. The poll found that many residents are concerned about the high cost of living, that roughly half of those polled making more than $150,000 a year would consider leaving the state in the next five years and that more than 60 percent of respondents are finding it “very” or “somewhat” difficult to maintain their standard of living.
“We don’t find that there’s a whole lot of research being done on policy issues in Connecticut,” DeNardis said. “We thought this was serving a real need. We hope to hope to foster dialogue in Connecticut.”
On Nov. 28 at 5 p.m. in the Martire Forum, the university will host State senators Toni Boucher, Bob Duff, Tony Hwang and State reps. Laura Devlin, Brenda Kupchik, Cristin McCarthy Vahey and Steve Stafstrom for a panel discussion called “Connecticut at a Crossroads: A Conversation about the State’s Present and Future,” which will give the public a chance to engage with legislators on some of the topics addressed in the poll.
Sacred Heart will also be launching a Masters of Public Administration program in the Fall 2018 semester. The first cohort of students will work closely with the data collected and help to drive future polls, according to DeNardis.
“We thought involving them in the research process and engaging public opinion would be beneficial,” DeNardis said.
The institute plans to release similar polls quarterly. Research for the institute’s second poll — the questions on which have not yet been determined — will be conducted at the beginning of January. Results will be released shortly thereafter.
“We’re very excited to be working with the talented team at Sacred Heart. They’re very serious about putting out objective polls about what’s driving Connecticut residents and what’s happening in the state,” said Vigeant.