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American Association for Public Opinion Research

66th Annual AAPOR Conference: Fun in the Sun in Phoenix

By Dan Merkle, 2012 Conference Chair

AAPOR’s 66th annual conference was a hot one, and I’m not only referring to the weather. The conference, which was held May 12-15, 2011, in Phoenix at the Arizona Grand Resort, attracted 967 attendees. This is the highest attendance for a year without a joint WAPOR conference and the second highest attendance for an AAPOR conference ever.

Credit goes to Rob Santos, 2011 AAPOR Conference Chair, for the outstanding job he did putting together an excellent program from beginning to end. The program featured more than 90 sessions and panels involving more than 500 papers, methodological briefs, demonstrations and poster presentations.

A number of the sessions reflected the conference theme: “Public Perception and Societal Conflict.” Related to this theme, and a highlight of the conference, was the star-studded plenary session titled “The History of Immigration Reform in the U.S.” Featured panelists included Henry Cisneros, executive chairman of CityView companies and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Rodolfo de la Garza, a political science scholar at Columbia University, and Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll. The session was moderated by Gary Langer of Langer Research Associates.

The conference included theme-related sessions on cross-cultural research methods and applications to societal issues, including race and gender, religiosity, sexual orientation, climate change and immigration. The program also included sessions exploring advances in survey methodology in areas such as address-based sampling, cell phones, online surveys, nonresponse, incentives, weighting, questionnaire design and election polling. The sessions were well attended, and a number of them were standing-room only.

AAPOR also sponsored six short courses for those interested in more in-depth methodological training: “Dealing With Missing Data” (Mansour Fahimi and Darryl Creel), “Designing Surveys for Mobile Devices: Pocket-Sized Surveys That Yield Powerful Results” (Mario Callegaro and Tim Macer), “Principles for Questionnaire Design” (Roger Tourangeau), “The Benefits and Challenges of Address-Based Sampling Designs” (David Dutwin and Michael W. Link), “Creating Effective Designs for Mixed-Mode Surveys” (Don A. Dillman) and “The Use of Incentives in Survey Research” (Paul J. Lavrakas).

The conference provided ample opportunity for networking and mingling with friends, old and new. The tradition of AAPOR as a “meeting place” was on display throughout the conference as attendees socialized during the group meals, the New Member and All-Chapter Reception, the President’s Reception, the dessert receptions, refreshment breaks and the speed networking sessions. Attendees also gathered in the exhibit hall, which included demonstration sessions, poster presentations, “Meet the Author” sessions, the book exhibit and various exhibitors and vendors.  On the last night of the conference, attendees enjoyed the post-banquet fiesta featuring a live mariachi band and a complimentary margarita fountain.

Other fun activities, organized by the Social and Volunteer Conference Subcommittee led by Chair David DesRoches and Associate Chair Deborah Rexrode, included the golf outing, fun run/walk, applied probability, docent program and two stargazing events where attendees were able to take a professionally guided tour of the night sky using telescopes. You could even see the rings around Saturn!

The weather for the conference was very hot, sunny and dry throughout. But attendees had ample opportunities to beat the heat as the Arizona Grand Resort boasted a number of swimming pools in addition to a water park with an eight-story water slide, a wave pool and a lazy river.

Mark your calendars: planning is already underway for the 67th Annual AAPOR Conference, which will be May 17-20, 2012, in Orlando. The conference will be held at the JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes, a luxury resort about 10 miles from Walt Disney World and Universal Studios.