It seems like there’s an ordinance requiring any political news story to quote G. Terry Madonna. Do you keep track of how often you’re quoted?
I have Google send me notifications when my name appears. I average about five interviews a day. The day Santorum got out of the presidential race, I got 39 calls in 24 hours.
Did you just wake up one day and decide to be a pollster?
I’m a political historian by training. Polling became a second career in the early 1990s, when there weren’t so many polls around. By 2004, I noticed that Europeans and Asians and folks from all over the world began to show a tremendous interest in American politics. So now I get calls from the BBC, and diplomats have been on the F&M campus.
Have you been watching The Newsroom on HBO?
I tend to watch a drama or two, but no, I haven’t seen it. I actually try to stay away from political shows. By the time my day’s over—and I’m immersed in politics for about 16 hours—I’m about done with it.
We’ve had a lot of corruption in our local politics. Are Pennsylvania politicians as bad as we think?
We have two former House Speakers currently residing courtesy of the state. Among the 50 states, we would certainly seem to be in the top 10 for political corruption. The lion’s share of Pennsylvania’s politicians are honest, hardworking people. But we do have an environment of hubris and entitlement that allows people to be seduced by the culture. We have weak ethics laws, the weakest campaign finance laws in the country, and weak lobbying laws. And there isn’t any urge to change them.
The presidential election has given local politicians like Chris Christie and Michael Nutter some time in the national spotlight. Are our guys having a moment?
Christie was something of a Republican rock star even before he got out on the stump for Romney. He’s kind of an electric guy who’s always good for a Boardwalk moment.
What about Nutter?
They have styles that are a little different. Does he run for governor? Does Mayor Nutter eventually go to Congress or go into business? If Obama wins, it’s possible he finds his way into the administration—he’s certainly qualified.
In a word, will President Obama be reelected in November?
Finally, I gotta ask: What’s the “G.” stand for?
George. My mother is to blame. She wanted me called Terry, but it’s not a Christian name. So when I was baptized—and through parochial school—I was George. Some of my friends say “Giuseppe” as a joke.
This article originally appeared in the September issue of Philadelphia magazine.