The Optimist Editorial Board’s endorsement of President Obama was mistakenly seen as an endorsement by ACU by many readers. Some local residents, after reading or hearing about the endorsement, refused to answer election poll questions from ACU students working on a class project.
Dr. Lynette Sharp Penya, associate professor of communication, is the instructor for COMS 375, Persuasion. The entire class was working on a project, a political poll of Taylor County registered voters to determine the outcome of national and local elections.
Penya emailed the Optimist on Oct. 21 to offer the poll results for publication for Friday, a few days before Election Day.
But the students ran into an unforeseen roadblock. Many of the local residents who answered the phone calls had mistaken the Optimist’s endorsement published on Oct. 23 as reflective of ACU’s beliefs and refused to participate because they disagreed with the endorsement.
“A lot of people were very angry and didn’t want to answer any questions about the election because they thought we were supporting Obama,” said Staci Stovall, junior communication major from Abilene. “They were talking about the Optimist’s endorsement, which I didn’t know about until then.”
Stovall said of more than 90 people she called, only six took the survey.
Penya said many of the students are instead doing an alternative assignment she provided because many of the students weren’t or didn’t think they’d be able to complete the polling project.
“Due to the harsh reactions, I have offered an alternative assignment that many students in the class decided to take,” Penya said.
Penya said since several students opted for the alternative project and problems with data collection, the project wouldn’t be able to report valid numbers.
However, she said she didn’t want local participants to think their time was wasted.
“We appreciated the time that many people took to participate in the survey, both before and after the endorsement came out,” Penya said. “Those students who have completed the project will still have a valuable learning experience, it just won’t be what it could have been.”
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