How a researcher at Harvard University successfully decoded the opinions of independent voters

Market Research
Political Research

Andrew O’Donohue, a political scientist and Carl J. Friedrich fellow at Harvard University, studies political polarization and challenges facing democracy both in the United States and globally. Along with his co-author Daniel Markovits, a fellow political scientist at Columbia University, he conducted a survey with Cint to understand how the prosecution of Donald Trump influenced public opinion among independent voters. 


  1. For this study, the researchers wanted to understand how the prosecution of Donald Trump has affected the views of a specific subset of the population: political independents, i.e. the people who might tip an election one way between a Joe Biden and a Donald Trump. 
  2. Collecting data for an academic study isn’t just a matter of pressing start, having 3,000 people fill out your survey, and calling it a day. Running a pilot survey was essential to make sure that respondents understood their questions and ensure the survey was working as intended. 


Cint was able to collect high-quality data for this project on very specific populations. In this case, as political scientists, Andrew and Daniel wanted to understand swing voters and independents who might be potentially persuaded by major political events like the prosecution of Donald Trump. Cint provided the ability to access a large and credible number of respondents within that specific group. 

Research methodology involved connecting online survey research from Cint to data that Andrew was collecting out in the real world. At the time when Cint was conducting the research, Andew was living in Turkey and interviewing high-ranking judges and human rights lawyers to understand the Turkish experience on why legal institutions succeed or fail in protecting democracy against an illiberal political leader. The contribution of survey research was one facet in understanding the broader picture of how legal institutions can protect democracy. 


The partnership with Cint empowered the researchers to conduct a comprehensive study, yielding valuable insights into the perspectives of political independents. Through efficient data collection, precise quality assurance measures, and responsive support, the study exemplifies the benefits of leveraging Cint’s resources and expertise within the area of academic research. 


Enhanced quality 

“We felt very secure in respondent quality we received from Cint, and we knew in particular that respondents were not only real people filling out our surveys, but also that they were paying attention. We included in our survey several attention checks, including some that asked relatively cognitively demanding tasks, like confirming that respondents had watched a video and understood the main points. It showed us that respondents were really engaging with the material in the survey.” 

Time efficiency 

Cint has the ability to provide background demographic information on each survey respondent who participated. A lot of time was saved by not having to gather basic demographic characteristics, for example, the gender of the respondent. 


“We were able to reach out to Cint to ask for a batch of say, 500 respondents, and often hear back within 48 to 72 hours. That was unique for us, and a value add to our project – not having to wait on data, but having it in hand basically as soon as we asked for it.” 


Cint has a large number of respondents that were available for sample, allowing access to specific and targeted populations. A certain number of respondents were needed to have representation for a group as varied as political independents.  

However, independents are comparatively rare in American political life (at the moment). Andew and Daniel wanted to speak to a sufficient number of these people to understand how different messages, for example, from Donald Trump himself or from the federal prosecutor, Jack Smith, would affect a relatively large number of these respondents.  

Through Cint, they were able to reach out to and understand the views of a particular subset of America’s population. 

The broad range of demographic covariates also allowed for deeper understanding of the level of representation and whether there might be biases in the sample. 

Responsiveness of managed services team 

“One thing that impressed us about working with the Cint team was how responsive they were and how willing they were to work with us down to the final minutes of the survey. We wrapped up our survey right around the Christmas holidays, as people were about to head off for their holidays – the Cint team was highly responsive and able to get us the final batch of data we needed to complete our survey.” 

Watch the video here: 

Andrew O’Donohue’s statements are made of his own personal capacity, and his statements do not officially represent Harvard University or any of its units or officers.