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The leading association
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American Association for Public Opinion Research

Letter from the President

What a difference a year makes.

Just over one year ago, the AAPOR Executive Council faced a difficult decision. A number of members argued that the association should not hold its 2011 Annual Conference in Phoenix because of that state’s recently enacted immigration legislation.

The logistical challenge and cost of moving the conference would be enormous, and there was no guarantee that similar legislation would not be enacted in whatever alternative location could be found for the conference.

Council voted to keep the conference in Phoenix, but there was anxiety that the immigration controversy, along with continued troubles in the nation’s economy, would have serious negative consequences for conference attendance.

Fast forward a year and the mood is very different – many of us are feeling relief and even elation because the conference in Phoenix last month had the second-highest attendance in AAPOR history. This was achieved in no small part by the pro-active work of conference chair Rob Santos and the conference committee to turn the controversy into an opportunity to study and discuss the immigration debate and the broader theme of public perception and societal conflict.

But the great turnout for the conference is also a testament to the vitality of AAPOR as a meeting place for professionals in the field of social and opinion research. For a lot of members, the conference combines the best of professional and intellectual stimulation with rewarding personal interaction, all in a nice location.

Many of the details of the conference will be covered in another article in this newsletter, but one experience typified the AAPOR conference enthusiasm for me. On the last day and at the very last time slot of the conference, I attended a panel and there were at least 50 people in the audience, many with their luggage packed beside them. And nearly everyone stayed through all the presentations, and all of the Q & A. Show me an audience of 50 at the last panel of the last day at the American Political Science Association or American Sociological Association conference and then I’ll stop believing that AAPOR is unique!

We have a busy and exciting year ahead for the association. Discussions are already underway regarding next year’s conference theme, and it promises to be a compelling one. The Transparency Initiative planning process is proceeding, with the hope that we will have a working version of the TI in operation by the time the presidential primary season arrives.

A number of task forces have been established, working on topics as wide ranging as the governance of AAPOR, the role of survey research in the legal process, the possible creation of a new journal to be published jointly with the American Statistical Association and the role of public opinion research in the policy process. And we will soon announce the creation of a task force to study whether and when non-probability survey methods have scientific value. On top of all this, most of the standing committees of AAPOR have already had initial planning meetings to welcome new associate chairs and talk about their agendas for next year.

One area of particular interest to me is finding ways to involve more AAPOR members in the exciting and valuable work that AAPOR does. We already have a vast army of volunteers working in one or more of the numerous committees and task forces underway. But there is a need for many more. Equally important, volunteer work in the association is an opportunity for younger (and not-so-young) professionals to meet others in AAPOR, to learn more about the profession and to develop valuable leadership and management skills.

Having gotten to know a number of bright and energetic young survey researchers through AAPOR activities over the past few years, I am fully convinced that AAPOR need not worry about generational replacement, at least as long as we can keep creating meaningful volunteer work and leadership opportunities for this young cohort.

To that end, a small group is working to create a better process for identifying volunteers and matching them with interesting and challenging work opportunities within AAPOR. Building on the innovation Peter Miller introduced last year as chair of the committee that recommends candidates for the executive council, this will include the creation of expanded ways to identify members who are interested in serving the association – through both self-nomination and recommendations by peers – as well as better ways to match available volunteers with the committees, task forces and other association work that need the help.

It’s my hope that this process, when fully implemented, will make AAPOR a more inclusive and open organization and one in which many more members will have the opportunity to enjoy the rewards and satisfaction of working with others on behalf of the association and the profession.

My best wishes to all of you for a great summer, and please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions, concerns or ideas about AAPOR.

Scott Keeter
AAPOR President 2011-2012