Franklin puts Marquette on the pollster map

When the Marquette University Law School Poll reported that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker had opened a seven-point lead just days before the Nov. 4 election, many supporters of Democratic challenger Mary Burke criticized the poll as an outlier.

They cited most of the other polls that indicated the race was razor tight and some that even suggested Burke was winning.

Sources in both Walker’s campaign and the Burke camp said they expected the Wisconsin race returns to go late into the night before a winner would be declared.

However, the final results came early. And they were definitive. When the smoke cleared, Walker indeed had won the race by six points, again validating the Marquette Law School Poll as the gold standard of polling the Wisconsin electorate.

Veteran pollster Charles Franklin has put the Marquette Law School Poll on the national map. Franklin, who also serves as a professor of law and public policy at the school, has built a remarkably accurate track record in his short tenure in Wisconsin.

In the 2012 election for a U.S. Senate seat, Franklin’s final poll before the election predicted Democrat Tammy Baldwin would defeat former Gov. Tommy Thompson by four points. Baldwin then won by 5.5 points.

In the presidential race of 2012, Franklin predicted President Barack Obama would carry Wisconsin by beating Republican nominee Mitt Romney by eight points. Obama won by 7.

Franklin also correctly predicted Walker’s seven-point victory in the 2012 recall election.

So, BizTimes asked Franklin about what has made his poll so accurate where so many others have failed.

In a series of e-mails, Franklin responded:

“Very good field staff who do polling full-time. Four-day field period. Forty percent cell phone. Exact same design and sampling each time. A core instrument that remained almost identical for first 28 items over the fall so change comes only from responses, not question order changing or early items changing. Those are the things you can control. Then trust the respondents.”

Marquette is fortunate to have Franklin in its midst. He is the co-developer of Pollster.com and serves as an election night consultant for the ABC News election night decision desk. He also is a past president and an elected fellow of the Society for Political Methodology.

Despite his strong track record, Franklin knows his reputation is only as good as his latest poll.

“I’m very happy with this performance. But every pollster who polls long enough will miss a race sometime. Readers should remember no poll is infallible, including ours,” Franklin said.

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