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Phillips Academy Poll: The Nation’s First High-School-Run Public Poll

M.DOUCETTE/THE PHILLIPIAN

The Phillips Academy Poll, founded by Patrick Chen ’23, Alex Shieh ’23, Julian Reed ’23, Trey Wolfe ’23, and Ben Garozzo ’23, is a newly established club focused on polling the thirteen swing states. Through an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system and other methods, the organization works to gather large amounts of data on political topics to gain insight into voters’ perspectives in various states. Thus far, the organization has polled New Hampshire and is on its way to poll Florida.

Shieh, Chief Pollster, explained that the organization provides their results to poll aggregators, who combine their data with data from other polls to provide a quantitative result. Shieh says that Andover Poll is similar to many college polls, such as the Quinnipiac University Poll or Emerson College Poll.

“We’re an organization that has Abbot Grant funding, and essentially what we’re doing is we are polling on swing states in the same way that a college or university might do it. We’re working with ABC News’s poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight. They do statistical analysis on all the polls, including ours. We’ve also had press coverage with Channel 7 News, New Hampshire Public Radio, and the National Republican Congressional Committee, who are spreading our results as well,” said Shieh.

The founders are planning to poll high school students in swing states. According to Shieh, New Hampshire could not be student-polled due to laws prohibiting non-academic surveys sent to high school students. Thus, the founders are now reaching out to school administrators in Florida to pitch their plans. Chen, Executive Director, hopes that student polling will allow the club to discover generational differences in voting opinions.

Chen said, “We’re doing something we’re calling the Student Poll. We’re going to be reaching out to schools in the state of Florida, and we’re going to be polling students within those schools. Since they’re high schools, most of the students won’t be able to vote. We’re going to be comparing the future generation of voters to the current generation, which will be presented through our normal survey of [adults], and we wanted to draw attention to possible discrepancies or just how the future generation will vote in general.”

Their telecommunication system, IVR, was coded by the founders and sends automated phone calls to random state-registered numbers. Shieh also explained that their aim to collect data from a large sample size is in hopes of collecting accurately representative information.

Shieh said, “We call enough people that we’re able to get a decent sample size, and from those people, we just ask them who they’re planning to vote for in a hypothetical matchup between two candidates. Then we also ask them for demographic information such as, for example, education, or their race, or what political party they’re registered [with], so that we can weigh the data, so that it accurately represents the population at large.”

Chen highlighted the confidentiality of the surveys as well. He notes that the anonymity and lack of human-to-human interaction aspect of the polling process allows Andover Poll to quickly reach many people and for those surveyed to share their true opinions.

“Aside from the convenience of the automated nature of how we conduct the survey…it also provides another level of privacy for the people taking our survey, because it’s just a robot and we don’t need to hear anyone’s voices or anything. The people who take our survey can be very confident that their results will be anonymous, and they’re not going to be tracked [by] their number [or] anything,” said Chen.

Trey Wolfe ’23, Lead Political Analyst, shared that he originally doubted the success of the poll. However, Wolfe is now amazed by the work they have done and hopes to further develop the organization.

Wolfe said, “I remember my first thought being: I’ve never heard of a high-school-run poll. And my second thought, it seemed like a far fetched idea. I would say, way back in May, I definitely wouldn’t see us doing what we’re doing now, with just a partial grant. What we’ve done with New Hampshire and what we’re going to do with Florida is incredible, so I think that’s our whole goal now, just keep looking forward, keep getting bigger.”

Andover Poll aims to keep the Andover community informed through various ways, including a website, andoverpoll.com, a data visualization screen in the basement of the library, and social media. Helios Hong ’25 notes how having a student-run poll can give insight into how polling works during times in which polls can’t always be trusted.

“I think it is a good idea to have a student-led poll, because we don’t really know what’s happening behind the scenes of polling, and after some of the recent polling results, some people don’t believe in polling as much anymore. So I think having a student-run poll, and also being able to join that club, gives you an inside perspective on how polling works,” said Hong.