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Education Policy Fellowship Program

The Role of Think Tanks & Policy Centers
The Power of Polling

January 07, 2002
12:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Kellogg Center, MSU

The first part of this session will explore how public policy is shaped by think tanks and other organizations which work at the intersection of research, policy and politics. We will examine the work of both public and private sector organizations and analyze how their reports, studies and information are used by business and political leaders in the policy debate.

The second part of this session will examine how public policy is shaped by opinion polling, how organizations sample public opinion, and how business and political leaders use this information in the policy debate. Part of the discussion will focus on exit polling and explore how elections can be "called" prior to the polls closing. We will also examine the results of recent state and national elections and discuss how these elections have impacted relationships between the majority and minority parties in Congress and in the Michigan Legislature.

Session A Resource Persons:

Mr. John C. Austin
Senior Project Manager
Public Policy Associates

John Austin serves as senior project manager for Public Policy Associates, a national research firm with expertise in a wide variety of areas including economic development, environmental issues, healthcare, education and workforce issues. He has an extensive background in public policy management and consulting, and he is currently serving an 8 year term as an elected member of the Michigan State Board of Education.

See his biographical material at

Dr. David N. Plank

Director, The Education Policy Center at Michigan State University
and Professor, Department of Educational Administration,
College of Education

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David Plank is Director of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University and a professor of educational administration specializing in the areas of educational policy and educational finance. He has conducted research and served as a consultant in these areas in the United States, Africa, and Latin America. His research interests focus on the relationship between democratic governance and policy change in educational systems. He is co-investigator on three studies of school choice and school reform in Michigan. The first, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, explores the enactment of competing reform strategies in professional development schools and charter schools. The second, funded by the Spencer Foundation, investigates the ecological effects of expanded opportunities for school choice in metropolitan Lansing. The third, funded by the Michigan Legislature, compares the impacts of school choice in Lansing, Detroit, and Grand Rapids. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Dr. Carol S. Weissert
Professor of Political Science
Institute for Public Policy & Social Research
321 Berkey Hall
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">
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Carol S. Weissert is professor of political science at Michigan State University and heads MSU's Institute for Public Policy and Social Research. She is also director of MSU's Program in Public Policy and Administration which offers a Masters in Public Administration degree. Prior to coming to Michigan, she worked for several Washington-based state and intergovernmental groups including the National Governors' Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, and the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. She has published on the implementation of Medicaid, state legislative primary care mandates, and health professions education in journals including Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, Health Affairs, Academic Medicine, Journal of Politics, and Publius: The Journal of Federalism. She is co-author of Governing Health: The Politics of Health Policy, published in 1996 by Johns Hopkins University Press. A second edition of Governing Health will be available in early spring 2002. She is a field researcher for the State Capacity Project to examine implementation of state welfare reform and Medicaid Managed Care for the Rockefeller Institute, SUNY Albany and edited a book from that project entitled, Learning from the Leaders: Welfare Reform Politics and Policies in the Midwestern States. Her doctorate in political science is from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Session B Resource Person:

Mr. Ed Sarpolus
Vice President
4710 W. Saginaw
Lansing, MI

Ed Sarpolus has played a major role in making EPIC/MRA the most quoted source of survey research in Michigan, as well as a regularly quoted source by national media outlets and publications, particularly on issues of international trade. Major clients include the Detroit Free Press with more than 600,000 daily readers, the Lansing State Journal, Oakland Press, the Flint Journal, as well as most television news outlets in Michigan, including WXYZ- ABC TV-7 in Detroit, ABC TV-12 in Flint, WOOD TV-8 in Grand Rapids, TV-5 in Saginaw, WLNS TV-6 in Lansing and WILX TV-10, also in Lansing. Election day exit polling conducted by EPIC/MRA is not only covered by print media clients, but television coverage of election day survey results covers more than three quarters of Michigan's viewing audience.

Other EPIC/MRA research on major topics of public interest, as well as election polling results, are regularly covered not only by Michigan media outlets, but also by national outlets. Sarpolus has appeared as a commentator on PBS, CNN World News, Inside Politics-CNN, MSNBC, Nightline, ABC and NBC News. Sarpolus has also been regularly interviewed by Michigan radio stations and NPR, quoted in most major national publications including Time, U.S. News and World Report, Business Week, the Washington Post, New York Times, Boston Globe and the National Journal. EPIC/MRA research results and commentary by Sarpolus has also been a regular contributor to the Polling Report, The Hotline, and Congress Daily. Finally, because of his extensive experience on trade issues, Sarpolus has been a featured speaker for groups such as the Council on Foreign Relations and Consumers for World Trade.

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