November 29, 2012
Empirical Research Project
Rocking the Wick: How Hartwick Student Vote and
Do They Turn Out to Vote?
My project is the result of my own personal story about getting my absentee ballot. I applied for an absentee ballot using the Hartwick on-campus registration drive, I filled it out and they sent it to my county. Unfortunately there was a mistake and my form ended up in the wrong county. The other county called me to tell me and they faxed my form to the proper county, I received my absentee ballot, and sent it in time to vote. However that experience lead to the questions I hoped to answer in my project. My goal was to interview students and ask them if they registered to vote and how, did they encounter any problems, and if after registering to vote they did end up voting. I felt it would be interesting because, during an election year, the youth vote is highly talked about and why the youth has the lowest turnout rate out of any voter age demographic.
There are three types of data collection techniques, surveys, content analysis, and document analysis. Survey research, as defined by Johnson and Reynolds (2012), “involves the collecting information via a questionnaire or survey instrument (a carefully structured or scripted set of questions that may be administered face-to-face, by telephone, by mail, by Internet, or by other means)” (p. 307). The second, content analysis is the systematic coding of written records and the classification of its contents or in other words, “a systematic procedure by which records are transformed into quantitative data” (Johnson and Reynolds, 2012, p. 303). Basically you are taking qualitative information and turning it into quantitative. Finally document analysis involves using research that others have already conducted and often the research’s original intention may be different from what you would use it for. I used face-to-face surveys as my population is relatively small. The major advantage of surveys is that we are going straight to the source, Hartwick students. I feel the biggest advantages to surveys are that you can measure a large number of people in short amounts of time as well as measuring several variables easily. Many political scientists and researchers “feel that the best way to measure people’s preferences, beliefs, and knowledge…is to ask them” (Johnson and Reynolds, 2012, p. 307). However though it may seem simple to straightforwardly ask students if they voted in reality, it is not, and questionnaires often overestimate voter participation. Often the answers a person gives on paper do not show the whole story behind their answer or people may also answer a certain way in order to preserve their self-image (saying they voted when in reality they didn’t). Also, if a participant thinks that a researcher is looking for a certain answer they may answer that question in order to please the researcher. I do feel that having Hartwick students fill out surveys did help me get straight to the answers I wanted. Due to time restrictions and plausibility it was the only way to find out if students had registered and if they had in fact voted and then I also could ask how they felt about the voter registration process as a whole. However I do admit that it is possible that, because it was face-t-face, people may have answered to preserve their image. There are several benefits and disadvantages to conducting face-to-face surveys. The first is that face-to-face surveying usually has a high to medium completion rate. This means that a large portion of the people I originally asked to participate did complete the survey, in fact out of the 33 people I asked only one person declined to participate. Another benefit is that it has a high sample-population congruence meaning that the sample subjects are probably highly representative of the population. The main disadvantage to face-to-face surveys is overall...