Des Moines Register wins Iowa Gallup Award
The Des Moines Register’s poll coverage of the 2007 Iowa caucuses earned the daily morning newspaper the 2007 Iowa Gallup Award.  
“I believe The Register won the Iowa Gallup Award because of the huge volume of poll coverage and also for the accuracy of the poll when all other polls failed,” Ann Selzer said.
Selzer, President of Selzer and Company, Inc. met with staff members of The Des Moines Register.  
“We coordinate the field work, meaning we work with our phone bank on procedures for doing the interviews and looking at nightly results,” Selzer said.
On the day the poll is delivered, Selzer and Company, Inc. create a tabulated questionnaire showing top line percentage responses to every question asked.  
They also incorporate cross-tabulations so reporters can look at how various subgroups answered all the questions.
“I write a document called pollster notes, which gives my take on what is happening,” Selzer said.
The reporters then write the stories that appear in the paper and include a number of graphic representations of the data.  A columnist occasionally writes a piece about the poll results as well.
“All this happened within a matter of hours on New Year’s Eve 2007, ahead of the January caucuses,” Selzer said.  
Selzer and Company, Inc. is a polling firm that conducts surveys and, and it has a long-standing relationship with The Des Moines Register.  They finished their polling on Dec. 30, and the results were posted on the website the evening of Dec. 31.
Public opinion polls have been under scrutiny for quite some time.  Criticisms include problems with polling, such as framing of questions, overall samples selected being viewed as unfavorable and margin of error.
Selzer says margin of error is not a problem because it is a statistical calculation based on how many respondents are interviewed.  She believes the problems have to do with a completely different issue.  
“The problems with polling have to do with drawing samples and executing them in a way that we end up with a respondent pool that looks like a cross section of the people who actually show up and vote on election days,” Selzer said.  “That’s the tricky part.”
Selzer and Company, Inc. is a part of the Gallup Organization, and the only polling company to accurately record on both the Democratic and Republican side.
“We produced a massive amount of information and rocked the campaign results,” Selzer said.
The winning entry, “The Iowa Caucuses,” was published on the Register’s website Dec. 31, 2007, and ran in the newspaper the following day.
“I commend The Des Moines Register’s outstanding work in placing the voice of the Iowa electorate squarely into the nation’s dialog,” said Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of the Gallup Organization.
Clifton cites Dr. George H. Gallup, Sr., as one of Iowa’s most famous alumni.  He is listed as one of the ‘100 Famous Americans’ according to The Atlantic Magazine and USA Today.  
“Our mission is for the Iowa Gallup Award to be the Pulitzer Prize for polling-based journalism,” Clifton said.  
Gallup is known as the “father of public opinion polling.”  He received his doctorate from The University of Iowa.  His dissertation led to the development of the Gallup Poll.  
“In journalism, there are no breakthroughs.  Stories tend to hit a wall, and then it’s not really a story,” Clifton said.  “The public has its own ethics and different values so the story can go further and include the entire public rather than a surgeon general for example.”  
Vanessa Shelton is executive director of Quill and Scroll Society, which helped to coordinate the Iowa Gallup Award along with the journalism school and the Gallup Inc. organization.
“The interest of the school, the Gallup organization and Quill and Scroll in presenting an Iowa Gallup Award is our common link,” Shelton said.
Shelton helped coordinate the contest and ceremony as one the supervisors of a graduate student.
The graduate student does the hands-on work such as sending out the call for entries, giving entries to judges, receiving judge results and announcing the winners.  
“All of this is done by communicating with all of the players,” Shelton said.  “The Gallup organization, the winners, the J-School, Quill and Scroll, the Liberal Arts and Sciences dean, the UI Alumni Association and the UI Foundation.”
Monday, October 27, 2008