Washington Post polling analyst and UMD alumna Emily Guskin has always loved news and politics. Even as a small child, she’d read the Post at the kitchen table at breakfast. Her favorite show at age 5 was “60 Minutes.” When she arrived at the University of Maryland as a member of the Class of ’06, pursuing a double major in Government and Politics and Communications was a natural decision--one that would eventually lead her down a unique career path.
After UMD, Guskin received a Master’s in Public Policy at Rutgers University, during which she began working with election polls while interning at ABC News leading up to the 2008 Presidential Election. That led to stints as a research analyst at the Pew Research Center and a research manager at global PR firm APCO Worldwide, until she came to the Post in 2016. Guskin now spends her days measuring public opinion on politics, policy, the pandemic and pretty much anything else making headlines at the state and national levels.
“There aren’t that many ways to test public opinion and be confident in what people are saying, other than polling,” Guskin said. “Knowing what Americans think about issues that affect us all is important for democracy and is important for understanding what is happening in the country, and in the world overall.”
Because Guskin works with a small team at the Post—alongside one other pollster and a student fellow—she manages many aspects of polling and surveying herself: analyzing data, writing survey questions, composing stories and making graphics. A majority of the work her team does, she explained, is to translate numbers into English so that readers can understand the story the analysts are learning through data. The responsibilities have given her the opportunity to continue to use and expand the quantitative skills she’s developed since being a student at UMD.
“I feel very lucky that I found a niche that gives me the opportunity to work in journalism and use skills that I used in grad school and in undergrad,” Guskin said. “I think it’s our responsibility to quash that stereotype that all journalists aren’t good at math because a lot of the math that we do isn’t terribly complicated, and being able to do it and help your colleagues out and tell the story with numbers is extremely valuable.”
Guskin’s team at the Post partners with journalists at the Post and other organizations for projects covering specific topics from opioids to sports to rural America, examining populations occasionally glossed over in a typical election year poll.
She’s also involved in coordinating the UMD-Washington Post national poll with faculty members in the Department of Government and Politics (GVPT), a collaboration that provides an opportunity to reconnect with her alma mater.
“It’s been really neat to work with the department of GVPT and talk to people who are in Tydings [Hall] again,” she said. “A good part of my heart is in that part of campus.”