The 2013 Spring Pack Poll results are in. The survey was conducted between February 20–25, and conducted online using Qualtrics survey software. Every undergraduate had an equal probability of being invited to take the survey. This was accomplished by drawing a random sample of 4,000 students’ emails. These students were then sent an email inviting them to take part in the Pack Poll.
A total of 963 undergraduate students started the survey, and 923 completed it. The response rate for starting the survey is 24% and 23% for completing it. The margin of sampling error is +/-3.1% for questions with the maximum response rate, but increases for questions in which the response rate is lower. For example, in split-ballot questions, the number of respondents answering each question is cut roughly in half, raising the margin of sampling error to about +/-4.4% for those questions. For a link to the survey questions and topline report, click here.
Note about Experimental Designs
Many of the questions on the 2013 Spring Pack Poll were administered as a “split-ballot.” In short, some students read a question worded one way, while others read a slightly different version of the same basic question. Qualitrics software enables us to randomly assign a respondent to only one version of a question, allowing us to easily compare the impact of question wording on reported opinions. Sometimes, we provided different answer options that respondents could use, such as including “no opinion.” In one case, we asked four different versions of a question about abortion, changing not only the wording, but also whether a no opinion answer option was provided. These experiments allow us to better understand how firm attitudes are, and whether “forcing” respondents to answer a question affects how we can describe public opinion about an issue.
Most notably in this semester’s survey, Presidential approval rating was greatly affected by the presence of a “no opinion” option in the answer choices. When provided with a no-opinion option, a plurality of N.C. State students (46%) disapproved of President Obama, while 41% approved, and 13% had no opinion. When students are not given the option of answering that they have “no opinion,” the majority approve of President Obama (55%) while disapproval remains largely unchanged (45%). It appears that those students who normally would not volunteer an opinion are more likely to say they approve of the president when encouraged to generate an answer. It is not clear, however, that these students have no real opinions about President Obama. Instead, their preferences might simply be weaker.
For purposes of comparison, the Fall 2012 Pack Poll completed prior to the election in November found that N.C. State students were evenly divided about the President’s approval rating (50/50%). Some five months later, President Obama’s approval rating has risen 5% to 55% among undergraduates, which is similar to the uptick national polls have been finding. Readers should note that this comparison is based on when the question did not provide respondents with a “no opinion” option.
Direction of the Country and N.C. State
Students see the university and the country headed in opposite directions. A majority of respondents (57%) say they think the country is headed in the “wrong direction.” Conversely, 85% of respondents think N.C. State is headed in the “right direction.” N.C. State students also overwhelmingly rejected the notion that N.C. State is a party school. When asked, 88% of respondents said “no.”
This was a large survey, with over 30 questions asked about multiple topics, including gun control, immigration, social media use, and abortion. Please revisit our site in the coming days as we continue to post new analyses of our findings.
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