The town hall audience pool

Gallup has recruited the 80 or so voters who will sit in the town hall audience tonight and ask questions, just as it did for the first ever presidential town hall debate in 1992. Last week, Marketplace spoke with Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup, about their methodology:

…Gallup will again be randomly recruiting uncommitted voters from around the Hofstra area. To recruit, Newport says, “we actually use the same format we use for our standard calling — we don’t tell them why we’re calling. We’re screening for uncommitted voters, and if they meet that qualification and a few others, we say, ‘Congratulations!’”

ABC News has more about how each audience member submits their questions:

Each audience member, upon arriving at the debate, writes their question for the candidates on two index cards.

One card is submitted to moderator Candy Crowley and the other is retained. Crowley, a CNN political correspondent, selects questions that make for a mix of diverse topics and questioners.

The other card is read by the audience member, in front of a national television audience, when Crowley calls on that person.

Newport also told ABC News that their random selection process ensures that the audience is demographically and politically diverse. If you’re wondering whether the latter goal was difficult to achieve in solidly Democratic New York state, keep in mind that Hofstra University and the surrounding town of Hempstead, NY are in Nassau County, which voted a more conservative 53% Obama to 46% McCain in 2008, as compared to a 62.2% Obama to 36.7% McCain vote statewide.

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