President's Column

Greetings!

To some of us it seems like only yesterday that we gathered in New Orleansfor our annual conference, while for others (especially those involved in polling, analysis and commentary leading up to the November election) it may seem like a long time ago.  Since so many of our members and their organizations are critical players in the national presidential elections held every four years and, in some sense, the performance of polls in this arena inevitably serves as a both a “lightning rod” and standard against which the value and success of our profession is judged, it is probably inevitable that these activities will always consume a substantial portion of our time, attention and dialogue during such years.  2008 has certainly not been an exception to that rule.  In fact, collectively, these efforts have thus far been the hallmark of the 2008-2009 AAPOR year, and our discussions and dialogue around methods, results, and implications for our profession will undoubtedly continue up and through our conference in Floridanext May. 

In effect, this build up and our contributions began some time ago, including the launch in September 2007 of the first course in our joint venture with the Poynter Institute’s NewsU, a free, online course on “Understanding and Interpreting Polls,” designed to help journalists (and other consumers of surveys and polls) gain a better understanding of how polls were conducted, what to look for in the methodology and how to determine the legitimacy of a poll.  Roll out of various sections of this course continued up through our conference in New Orleans, and interest in it clearly grew apace throughout the primaries and election season.  Mollyann Brodie reported in mid-October that this online course had reached over 1600 subscribers, and a Webinar based on the course, hosted by Claudia Deane, drew 103 subscribers.  When talking to reporters throughout the election cycle, several mentioned this course spontaneously, and when I asked others whether they were aware of this course, a great majority of them were.  This partnership with NewsU has clearly helped us make great progress on one of our key goals in our Long Range Plan--branding AAPOR as the place for journalists to turn for expertise.

Speaking of reporters, as many of you know better than I (and typically had already talked with same), there were as usual a broad range of questions, including several on “push polls,” for which there are a growing number of “watchdogs” and “aficionados,” but also a consistent barrage of questions on cell phones, the so-called “Bradley effect” and substantial interest in “poll consolidators” or “polls aggregators,” such as RealClearPolitics.com, FiveThirtyEight.com and Pollster.com.  Regardless, the questions on November 5th were all about how we felt that the polls performed, for which the obvious answer was “quite well.”   I think most of us — and even our critics — would agree that in this election the consistency and accuracy of our methodologies was borne out well, which, while hardly grounds for complacency, at least merits a sigh of relief!   I am confident we can count on seeing all of these questions and issues addressed in our annual conference this year.

I had also noted at our business meeting in New Orleansthat after several years of developing and implementing a long range plan, including several experiments, 2008-2009 would be a year for review, evaluation and some continued change.  For example, we had been experimenting over the last few years with a longer conference format, with a full day of sessions on Thursday.  After review by the Conference Committee and Executive Council, it was decided that we would return to our previous conference format, where the program will commence with dinner and a plenary session on Thursday evening. 

We also established a Special Committee (chaired by Scott Keeter) to Evaluate AAPOR’s Association Management Needs and continued from last year a Strategic Marketing Committee, chaired by Floyd Ciruli, to review and make recommendations to our standing committees — especially conference, membership and communications — on how we might better incorporate marketing and development principles into their activities.

After considerable review and reflection on progress, proposals and plans by the Executive Council, in collaboration with the founding editors, Survey Practice, our new online publication, was launched at the end of August, with five issues published by mid-December.  And, building on the great interest and success achieved by our Cell Phone Task Force last year, in September we established an Online Panel Task Force to bring more systematic and rigorous review, analysis and recommendations to this emerging component of our profession.

Under the leadership of Vince Price and Michael Link, the theme of the upcoming conference is “Public Choices in Changing Times,” which today seems even more prophetic than when it was conceived. There also will be significant changes in many other features of the conference, which we tell you more about in the next newsletter.  In brief, the entire Executive Council — and many other committee members and volunteers — are hard at work on your behalf. In brief, the entire Executive Council—and many other committee members and volunteers--are hard at work on your behalf.

If, as your current president, I can be of any assistance to you in the coming months, please do not hesitate to contact me.

For now, let me wish all of you very happy, healthy and productive 2009

!

Dick