Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Shutdown hurting U.S. image abroad, top pollster, KU grad tells Lawrence audience

By CHAD LAWHORN, The Lawrence Journal-World

The current federal government shutdown is beginning to scare the tea and crumpets out of the rest of the world, one of Great Britain's top pollsters and political commentators told a Lawrence audience Monday.

Sir Robert Worcester — the founder of the powerhouse polling firm Market & Opinion Research International, and a Kansas University graduate — said the current federal standoff is damaging the country's standing with the rest of the world.

"If it continues the way it is going now for very much longer, the rest of the world is going to get scared to death," Worcester said after delivering an address to the Lawrence Rotary Club.

Worcester, a Kansas City native who graduated from KU in the 1950s, is back in Lawrence meeting with Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and speaking in several KU classes. He said the reoccurring nature of a standoff between Republicans and Democrats over the federal debt limit is beginning to do permanent damage to the United States' reputation around the world.

Worcester said he thinks other world leaders are becoming frustrated by the stalemates because there is little they can do to influence the situation. It has left many recalling a sentiment often expressed by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

"Americans are famous for doing the right thing, after they have tried everything else," Worcester said. "I think that is being borne out currently."

Worcester, who sold his research firm to the international polling company Ipsos, currently is the chancellor of the University of Kent, and frequently appears on the BBC television network to analyze British and American elections.

Worcester, who actually lives in an English castle built in the Middle Ages, spoke to business students, journalism students and several other classes at the university. Longtime KU administrator Jeffrey Weinberg has been friends with Worcester for more than 20 years, and said he encourages Worcester to return to his alma mater frequently.

"He is a great role model for students," Weinberg said. "He's a prime example of a KU graduate who has worked his way through the professional world, reached great heights and has a well-respected voice on both sides of the Atlantic."