The People Behind the Polls: Story of the American Voter


Associated Program:
John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum
Tony Fabrizio
Margie Omero
Mark Penn

Tony Fabrizio
Partner, Fabrizio, Lee & Associates
Chief Pollster, Donald J. Trump Presidential Campaign
Margie Omero
Democratic Pollster
Co-host of The Pollsters Podcast
Mark Penn
President and Managing Partner, The Stagwell Group
Visiting Lecturer, Harvard College
Chairman, Harris Poll
John Della Volpe (Moderator)
Director of Polling, Institute of Politics, Harvard Kennedy School
Founder and CEO, SocialSphere, Inc

John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Institute of Politics, moderated a forum with a panel of polling experts including Tony Fabrizio, Chief Pollster, Donald J. Trump Presidential Campaign, Margie Omero, Democratic Pollster, and Mark Penn, Visiting Lecturer, Harvard College. The panelists discussed polling myths surrounding the 2016 election polls, how future campaigns should engage with polling, and how their work exposes the complexity of the American voter. 

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Panelist Biographies

Tony Fabrizio, a partner in Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, is widely recognized as an expert in public opinion and politics and one of the nation’s leading GOP pollsters and strategists.

Fabrizio has served as the Chief Pollster on four Presidential campaigns, most notably and recently Donald Trump’s successful 2016 upset victory.

Over the years Fabrizio has helped elect more than two dozen U.S. Senators, more than 50 Member of Congress, numerous Governors and other Statewide elected officials, as well as dozens of issue groups and trade associations.

Some of Fabrizio’s recent clients include Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Gov. Matt Bevin (R-KY), Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

Margie Omero has over 20 years of experience managing all facets of qualitative and quantitative research including everything from methodological design to business development and strategic analysis. Her clients have included some of the world’s biggest brands, such as Kellogg’s, McDonald’s, and Facebook, non-profit and advocacy groups such as the DNC, EMILY’s List, The Center for American Progress, and Everytown for Gun Safety, and hundreds of Democratic candidates for office. Omero has also led the bipartisan team studying Walmart Moms—a proven swing voting bloc covered by nearly every major national news outlets.

Omero is the creator and co-host of a top-200 podcast The Pollsters, covering the polls driving news in politics, tech, entertainment and pop culture. It’s the only podcast exclusively focusing on polling in the United States, and has been featured by iTunes, Google, and others.

A frequent writer, commentator, and speaker, Margie has appeared on ABC’s “This Week,” NPR’s “Morning Edition,” MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends,” and in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today. Margie speaks regularly before groups of lawmakers, business leaders, journalists, and students.

Omero has been named one of “50 Politicos to Watch” by Politico, a “Mover and Shaker” by Campaigns & Elections magazine, a “Young Woman of Achievement” by the Women’s Information Network, and “Rookie of the Year” by the American Association of Political Consultants.

Omero graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, with High Honors and Special Honors in the University honors program, and wrote her honors thesis using longitudinal survey data. She is professionally and academically trained in statistics and sampling, and is a professionally-trained focus group moderator with experience leading over a thousand qualitative sessions. She lives in Takoma Park, Maryland.

With over 40 years in market-research, advertising, public relations, polling and consulting, Mark Penn has advised top world leaders, led companies, and written a bestselling book. Penn is Founder, President and Managing Partner of The Stagwell Group, a private equity fund that invests in marketing services companies. Penn previously served as Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at Microsoft, where he was responsible for working on core strategic issues across the company, blending data-analytics with creativity to help set the company on a new course.

Penn demonstrated value-creation in a crowded industry as the co-founder and CEO of Penn Schoen Berland, a market research firm that he built and later sold to communications behemoth WPP. Pioneering techniques such as overnight polling and unique ad testing methods, Penn served a wide range of clients that included presidents, governments, and major corporations. During his tenure at WPP, Penn rose to become CEO of Burson Marsteller, managing the two companies to record profit growth during that period. 

A globally recognized strategist, Penn has advised corporate and political leaders, both in the United States and internationally. For six years, he served as White House Pollster to President Bill Clinton and was a key adviser in his 1996 re-election. Penn later served as chief strategist to Hillary Clinton in her Senate campaigns and 2008 Presidential campaign. Internationally, he helped elect more than 25 leaders in the Asia, Latin America, and Europe, including Tony Blair and Menachem Begin.

As a thought leader, Penn has regularly written columns for the Wall Street Journal,, and POLITICO. He is the author of the 2007 bestselling book “Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow’s Big Changes.”

John Della Volpe is Director of Polling at the Institute of Politics and has been affiliated with the IOP since the late 1990’s. Each semester, John leads a public opinion survey group of students who develop, field and report on the attitudes of young Americans (Millennial Generation) toward politics and public service. Since 2000, the IOP survey has tracked pre- and post-9/11 attitudes; accurately predicted youth turnout since; marked the generational shift in attitudes toward foreign policy; and provided insight into the ways in which Millennials communicate and form opinions. John was honored to receive an Eisenhower Fellowship (China, Korea) in 2008 and selected as a delegate to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission on Media in 2011. In addition, John is Founder and CEO of SocialSphere, Inc. a big data and social media analytics company located in Harvard Square, Cambridge.