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The next chapter for the Marquette Law School Poll

Photo by John Nienhuis

By Chris Jenkins

Building off the Law School Poll’s success during its first two years, Charles Franklin is collaborating with Craig Gilbert, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter who is in the middle of a six-month stint as the Law School’s Lubar Fellow for Public Policy Research, in exploring political polarization in the region.

For a veteran observer of Wisconsin politics such as Charles Franklin, it’d be hard to top 2012. Between the gubernatorial recall election, Paul Ryan’s vice presidential candidacy and Wisconsin’s swing-state status in the November election, there was no shortage of national ­attention to state politics. Through it all, the Marquette Law School Poll, led by Franklin and the largest indepen‑ dent polling project in state history, consistently gave voters an accurate look at public opinion. The poll correctly predicted the margins of the recall, senate and presidential races, each within two points of the final results. Franklin, who spent 2012 as a visiting professor at Marquette on leave from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, joined the Marquette faculty on a full-time basis Aug. 1. He remains director of the poll while adding the title of professor of law and public policy, and is looking forward to building on the poll’s successful first two years. “I think bringing some perspective to the issue is the No. 1 goal here,” Franklin says. “Not to argue one side or the other, or take posi‑ tions on public policy, but to try to provide the set of base facts from which different perspec‑ tives can legitimately argue the virtues of their side and the defects of the other side. That’s consistent with the purpose of the Law School’s public policy initiative since Mike Gousha came on board in 2007. Using the poll to support the work of the policy initiative in collaboration with Gousha and others has been deeply satisfying.”

While the next year might not be as wild as 2012, there will be plenty to keep tabs on. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is up for re-election in 2014, and both Walker and Ryan are being touted as potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates.

“I have requests right now from both Democratic and Republican firms for anybody with these [big data] skills to walk into a job,” Franklin says.

“It would be kind of disappointing to be in a state that was so lopsided that everything was a foregone conclusion — and we’re certainly not that,” Franklin says. “The different outcomes we saw in 2012 are certainly proof of our continued swing status.” Franklin will continue to track those races in 2013 and beyond, but he’s also using the

Presidential Search Marquette community’s feedback, as well as the challenges and opportunities of the presidential role. The comprehensive position description will be presented to the Board of Trustees for approval in December. The Search Committee is also actively building a broad pool of qual‑ ified candidates — both Jesuit and layperson —

poll for other purposes. The poll is supporting Prof. Michael O’Hear of the Law School and Associate Professor Darren Wheelock of Social and Cultural Sciences as they examine public attitudes on truth-in-sentencing policies and has incorporated questions from Political Science Assistant Professor Amber Wichowsky and Diederich College of Communication Professor Robert Griffin among other faculty. Franklin continues to poll on topics outside of politics and law, seeking public attitudes on everything from people’s financial outlook to their participation in religious activities, and welcomes suggestions from other faculty. “Those other topics don’t always get the head‑ lines that a ‘horse race’ poll or question gets, but they give us over time the chance to look at a variety of issues,” Franklin says. “Big data” and analytics are hot right now, in everything from politics and business to sports. Franklin doesn’t think it’s a fad, and he hopes current students pay attention to a growing field. “I have requests right now from both Democratic and Republican firms for anybody with these skills to walk into a job,” Franklin says. “And a pretty good job, not an internship. I would love to be able to help send students to those places as opportunities to start a career. It requires building those skills while you’re still an undergrad, and it requires being aware that these opportunities exist.”

C O N T I N U E D F R O M PA G E 1

with the help of national executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, which has extensive experience assisting with presidential searches at Catholic and Jesuit universities. Next, the confidential work of winnowing that candidate pool and reviewing candidates’ credentials will begin. The Search Committee plans to conduct inter‑ views with semifinalists during the spring 2014 semester. As the search moves toward finalists, the Search Committee would prefer that various stakeholders participate in the final selection, but is unwilling to lose top candidates who prefer a confidential process. At a recent input

session, Witt/Kieffer consultant, Dennis Barden, shared that current presidential searches at private universities are typically confidential, as candidates often hold executive positions at other institutions and want to return to those ­positions if they are not selected. The Search Committee will present finalists, as well as a recommendation for president, to the Board of Trustees, which will elect Marquette’s president. Ferraro says he is confident the next president of Marquette will be announced before the end of the academic year. Learn more at

November/December 2013 Marquette Matters  

November/December 2013 Marquette Matters

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