Stony Brook University hopes to make a national name for...

Stony Brook University hopes to make a national name for itself with its polls on finances. The first two found people ill informed. (Jan. 6 2011) Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., has achieved some national recognition for its political Polling Institute. Now Stony Brook University hopes to do the same with a poll of its own, this one on finance.

Stony Brook has partnered with a private company, Left Right Research, a marketing research firm in Ronkonkoma, to conduct polls dealing with how people understand their finances.

Duffy Mich, owner of the firm, said Left Right has already conducted two polls - one on how well people understand their credit cards and another on what people know about their contributions to Medicare and Social Security.

In both cases, Mich said, the results were alarming.

In a poll conducted in late May, more than 2,000 respondents were asked how long it would take to pay off a recent purchase if they made only the minimum monthly payment and continued to use their credit card. More than 94 percent underestimated the payoff time of a single item by more than two years, the poll found.

Almost 7,000 respondents were asked in another poll to estimate how much they had contributed to Medicare and Social Security during the year they earned the most money in their careers.

About 30 percent overestimated what they had paid by double or more. About two-thirds said they were "just guessing" in their estimates.

"They don't have a good handle on their understanding of Social Security and Medicare, and they don't understand minimum payments," Mich said.

Michael Kamins, a Stony Brook marketing professor and lead adviser to the poll, said that the university hopes to attract some national attention through the surveys, as Quinnipiac has.

The polls could be conducted on a monthly basis, Mich said.