Penn State voted most respected university in the Commonwealth

Penn and Carnegie Mellon were tied for second in a recent Harper Poll

· July 9, 2014, 5:11 pm   ·  Updated July 10, 2014, 1:08 pm

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In a statewide poll of Pennsylvania, Harper Polling has released survey results that found Pennsylvania State University to be the most respected school in the state.

In its "Our Commonwealth Poll", 24 percent of participants chose Penn State over Bucknell University, Carnegie Mellon University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh and Villanova University. 

Penn and Carnegie Mellon were tied for second with 17 percent each.

The survey, conducted between June 25 to June 26, also found that schools received higher percentages in their respective regions. In the Philadelphia and Southwest regions, Penn and Temple claimed about 60 percent of the votes together.

"It doesn't tell us a whole lot about anything," economics professor Francis DiTraglia said. "It's a light hearted poll and it doesn't say a lot about the universities involved." He went on to list the different criteria people might use to determine respect. "A school like Penn State has a lot more students than Penn. There are a lot more graduates and there's a tendency for people to refer to what they know," he said.

DiTraglia used the polling results to do some further digging of his own and noted some of the disproportionality in the results. Penn's class of 2017 had about 2,400 students with about 16 percent coming from the state of Pennsylvania.  Penn State, on the other hand, had 8,400 freshmen at University Park alone, with more than 60 percent in-state students.

Wharton professor Abraham Wyner was not impressed. "A survey conducted in this manner is not necessary and not meaningful," he said. "An automated, computer generated phone system will provide nothing remotely representative."

Both professors agreed that the methodology was done correctly, but neither saw any real value to its results.

DiTraglia suggested alternate ways of making such a survey more interesting. "Anytime you use rank order, people who are indifferent are ranked the same way as those who are extremely passionate," he said. "It might be more interesting to ask about people's positive or negative feelings towards a university."

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