History, organization, and leadership
Founded in 2002, the center mostly conducts national and statewide polls, conducting many of the latter in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. On occasion, the center has polled local races, such as the 2013 mayoral election in Boston, which Suffolk polled for the Boston Herald. The center has also polled on ballot issues, such as marijuana legalization and charter schools.
The founding and current director is David Paleologos. Paleologos is also a lecturer in the Political Science and Legal Studies Department of Suffolk University's College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the American Association of Public Opinion Researchers (AAPOR).
Suffolk is one of a handful of well-known academic polling centers in the United States; others include Marist College in New York (Marist Institute for Public Opinion), Monmouth University in New Jersey (Monmouth University Polling Institute), and Quinnipiac University in Connecticut (Quinnipiac University Polling Institute).
Political history and methodology
The center states that it is "the first research center to make all of the demographic cross-tabulation data for every poll available at no cost." Suffolk began polling "battleground states" in presidential elections in 2008.
In terms of methodology, the center uses live telephone calling, including mobile phones. The center began including mobile phones in its samples in 2012, beginning with closely fought campaigns. In the 2014 gubernatorial election for governor of Massachusetts, the Suffolk University/Boston Herald poll sampled a much higher percentage of mobile phones (35%) than some other pollsters. Suffolk's polling in the race "tended to be quite accurate, although the differences from some of the other polls were not large." Suffolk predicted that Republican nominee Charlie Baker would defeat Democratic nominee Martha Coakley, 46% to 43%, though in actuality, the margin of victory was one percentage point lower. An article published in the AAPOR journal Survey Practice noted this result in concluding that, "In Democratic-leaning states such as Massachusetts...exceeding state-wide cell-phone base rates may be necessary to measure candidates' standing accurately."
Suffolk has made use of polling methodologies that combine traditional statewide probability sampling with additional nonprobability sampling of bellwether districts, making use of this technique in its 2008 New Hampshire primary polls for WHDH, among other races. By the year 2011, the firm's "bellwether predictions have matched election outcomes in 33 of 36 cases, a 'hit rate' of 92%."
In 2016, Suffolk and USA Today continued their relationship, with SUPRC conducting national polling for the newspaper.
As of September 2020, the polling analysis website FiveThirtyEight, led by statistician Nate Silver, had 88 Suffolk polls in its database, and gave the polling center an "A" grade on the basis of its historical accuracy and methodology, and listed the pollster as having 80% accuracy record in calling races.
In 2021, Suffolk University, along with USA TODAY, began releasing polls of inner city residents, called "CityView," to examine attitudes toward crime, race, and police practices in cities. The surveys included residents of Milwaukee, Detroit, Los Angeles, Louisville, and Oklahoma City.
In 2022, Suffolk University and USA TODAY teamed up to poll 1000 Russian and Ukrainian residents of the U.S. and recorded attitudes toward world leaders, the current war, President Biden, and world organizations. Suffolk University produced seven polls in the final three weeks leading up to the November 2022 midterm elections. All seven polls correctly predicted the U.S. Senate winners, including the states of Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania.
In March of 2023, Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com rankings of pollster accuracy put SUPRC at the top of their list of the most accurate pollsters in the midterm election cycle (2021-2022): “Special congratulations are due to Suffolk University…which had the lowest average errors of any pollster that conducted at least five qualifying polls last cycle.”
- Quinnipiac University Polling Institute
- Franklin & Marshall College Poll
- Siena Research Institute
- Monmouth University Polling Institute
- Marist Institute for Public Opinion
- Janine A. Parry, Brian Kisida & Ronald E. Langley, "The State of State Polls: Old Challenges, New Opportunities," State Politics & Policy Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Summer 2008), p. 204 (table 1).
- Polls: Polling Archives, Suffolk University Political Research Center.
- Wide-open field in race to succeed Boston's longest-serving mayor, Reuters (July 17, 2013).
- David Scharfenberg, Voters split on charter schools, favor legal pot, Boston Globe (October 27, 2016).
- David Paleologos, Director of the Political Research Center, Suffolk University (last accessed October 7, 2016).
- David Paleologos, Paleologos on the poll: Major challenges ahead for GOP, USA Today (April 25, 2016).
- Leadership: David Paleologos, Director, Suffolk University Political Research Center (accessed October 7, 2016).
- Nick Anderson, How did Marist, Monmouth, Suffolk and Quinnipiac get known for political polling?, Washington Post (August 3, 2016).
- Nick Anderson, Polling proliferates in Virginia and elsewhere, with colleges leading the charge, Washington Post (August 12, 2016).
- Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight's Pollster Ratings, FiveThirtyEight (last accessed November 26, 2019).
- Carl Bialik, Pollsters Go Mobile, Wall Street Journal (December 2, 2011).
- Alan Reifman & Sylvia Niehuis, Pollsters' Cell-Phone Proportions and Accuracy in 2014 US Senate Races Archived 2016-11-01 at the Wayback Machine, Survey Practice, Vol. 8, No. 5 (2015).
- David Paleologos & Elizabeth J. Wilson, "Use of Bellwether Samples to Enhance Pre-Election Poll Predictions: Science and Art," American Behavioral Scientist (April 2011), vol. 55 no. 4 (published online before print February 28, 2011), pp. 390-418. doi:10.1177/0002764211398068.
- USA TODAY Teams with Suffolk University for Midterm Election Polling, Suffolk University (press release) (August 19, 2014).