President’s Column: The AAPOR Transparency Initiative

By Peter Miller, President

I want to bring you up to date on the Transparency Initiative. As you know, this project is an effort to encourage methodological disclosure for polls and surveys whose findings are publicly released.  Under the plan, AAPOR would publicly commend those organizations that routinely deposit information required by our Code in a publicly available archive.  The archive would serve both as a means for ensuring transparency in public opinion research and as a resource for all of us to examine evolving practice in our field.  Accompanying publicity would help to educate the public about the internal workings of polls and surveys.  Through this initiative, AAPOR will more effectively foster professionalism in our field.

Since I wrote to you in the fall, we have made some headway.  First, I have had an initial exchange with many organizations, inviting them to participate in the Initiative and asking for their feedback.  This has produced many expressions of willingness to join and has identified several issues that need to be addressed to make the project work.   Second, the AAPOR Code is being revised and, pending member approval, will serve as the basis for disclosure practice. Third, I have had discussions with the Roper Centerabout establishing an archive for disclosed information.  Lois Timms-Ferrara and Marc Maynard will have a poster session at the conference, in which they describe the information required by the AAPOR Code and what already resides in the Roper Archive. They also are discussing coordination with the Odum Institute at the University of North Carolina and the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research at the University of Michigan.  Fourth, several committees, linked to Council officers, are being established to shepherd the Initiative as it develops over the next year.

At the conference in May, we will publicize the names of organizations which have committed to participating in the Transparency Initiative up to that date.  Others will be welcome to join as we proceed to work out details over the succeeding months.  Another highlight of the conference is the plenary session panel on “Assessing Truth in Polls and Surveys.”  This panel will lay out, compare and critique the approaches of different organizations (e.g. AAPOR, NCPP, CASRO, OMB, ABC News) to addressing transparency and survey quality.  The panel will put our efforts in perspective and identify common ground with other organizations.

As the association’s past president, I will devote my time to bringing the Transparency Initiative to fruition.  Apart from working through issues that affect survey organizations’ ability to participate, we need also to address the costs of the project, including archive management and have a means for continuing support.  I have taken some initial steps on fund raising; committees will flesh out a comprehensive plan over the coming months.

The Transparency Initiative is obviously a major undertaking for AAPOR.  To sustain the effort in coming years will take time, vigilance and treasure.  We’ll need imagination to seize the opportunities the Initiative will offer to study how our profession works.  This may be the most significant project we have ever attempted.  At the same time, the Initiative will replace the episodic Standards cases – themselves very time-consuming and often unproductive – with a new, effective way to foster methodological disclosure.  If you would like to be involved personally or through your organization, please let me know.  After Council approval, a list of committees and sign up information will be available online and at the conference.  I look forward to working with you on this ambitious, vital enterprise.