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American Association for Public Opinion Research

Awards for Public Opinion Research Innovation and Policy Impact, Influential Book, Student Paper

May 12, 2008 – The leading professional organization of public opinion and survey research professionals announced its 2008 public opinion innovation, policy impact and book awards today; the presentations will be made at the American Association for Public Opinion Research's (AAPOR) Annual Conference in New Orleans, May 15-18.
The 2008 Warren J. Mitofsky Innovators Award goes to Mick P. Couper for demonstrating and advocating the use of paradata by survey researchers as a tool for understanding the behavior of survey respondents. First introduced in a 1998 presentation to the American Statistical Association, analysis of paradata allows researchers to better understand features of the survey situation, interviewer behavior, and the respondent environment, each of which can greatly affect survey quality.
In his early work on paradata, Dr. Couper studied behaviors coded from camera recordings of interviews and data collected from trace files recording interviewer keystrokes. The use of paradata has since been expanded to the study of interviewer observations, response latencies, mouse movement data, call record observations, and a host of computer-assisted tracking mechanisms for understanding respondent behavior. In less than a decade, the analysis of paradata has become a standard used throughout the world.
His innovation lies in recognizing the vast potential of paradata and showing the research community practical ways to exploit its power. Measures of paradata have been integrated into large-scale scientific surveys including the European Social Survey, the National Election Studies, the National Health Interview Survey, the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, and the General Social Survey.  His work with paradata has facilitated new ways of thinking about survey responses, survey quality, and research design. The Warren J. Mitofsky Innovators Award is named after the recently deceased pollster who was known for innovation in research, such as helping to devise random-digit dialing and exit polling methods.
Dr. Couper – who also co-authored the book receiving an award this year – is a Research Professor in the Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan.  He is also a Research Professor in the Joint Program in Survey Methodology, a consortium of the University of Maryland, the University of Michigan, and Westat.  He received a Ph.D. in sociology from Rhodes University, an M.A. in applied social research from the University of Michigan, and an M.Soc.Sc. from the University of Cape Town.  His current research interests include survey nonresponse, design and implementation of survey data collection, effects of technology on the survey process, and computer-assisted interviewing, including both interviewer-administered (CATI and CAPI) and self-administered (web, audio-CASI, etc.) methods.
Contact award winner: Mick Couper,  [email protected]
The 2008 Policy Impact Award goes to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) at the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in recognition of their extraordinary, long-term group effort in contributing timely data and research that has informed U.S. health care policy decisions.
The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey at the AHRQ has collected detailed information about the use and payment for health care services from a nationally representative sample of Americans for two decades.  The research program includes healthcare data collection, development, research, and the translation of research into practice, with the goal of identifying strategies to improve access, foster appropriate use, and reduce unnecessary expenditures.  Few other surveys provide the foundation for estimating the effect healthcare changes have on different economic groups and special populations, such as the poor, elderly, veterans, uninsured, and racial and ethnic groups.
In the past several years, MEPS data and associated research findings have quickly become a linchpin for the nation's economic models and their projections of healthcare expenditures and utilization.  MEPS data have been used in hundreds of scientific publications and many more unpublished reports.  MEPS findings have been used by many federal agencies to inform congressional policy decisions, and in the public and private sectors to help develop economic projections.  
For example, MEPS research findings have been used extensively by the Congressional Budget Office, Department of Treasury, Joint Taxation Committee and Department of Labor to inform Congressional inquires related to health care expenditures, insurance coverage and sources of payment, and to analyze potential tax and other implications of Federal Health Insurance Policies. MEPS is also used to develop estimates provided in the Consumers Checkbook Guide to Health Plans, of expected out-of-pocket costs  (premiums, deductibles and copays) for federal employees and retirees for their health care.
Key collaborators to the MEPS Program include the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bureau of the Census, and Westat. 
Contact award winners:  Steven Cohen (AHRQ), [email protected]
Karen M. Beauregard (AHRQ), [email protected]
The 2008 AAPOR Book Award goes to Robert M. Groves and Mick P. Couper for Nonresponse in Household Interview Surveys.  Their book is being honored for a lasting influence on the science of survey research.  Published a decade ago in 1998, it arrived at a time when pollsters and other researchers were struggling with plummeting rates of response to surveys, from both those who could not be reached and those who were unwilling to participate.  This raised serious questions about the generalizability—and ultimately, the usefulness—of data from household surveys. 
The volume led the field to a more critical and comprehensive examination of survey participation. Based on a thorough [CP1] theory-based and interdisciplinary approach, the book assembled original data about nonresponse on a massive scale and breadth, including findings from a collaboration with the U.S. Bureau of the Census. It has shaped how survey methodologists, analysts and practitioners think about nonresponse, guiding much subsequent research, including the notion that nonresponse is a stochastic, rather than a fixed, property of individual respondents.
Dr. Groves is the Director of the University of Michigan Survey Research Center  and a Research Professor at the Joint Program in Survey Methodology, a consortium of the University of Maryland, the University of Michigan, and Westat.  He is also a Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan.  He was Associate Director of the U.S. Census Bureau from 1990-1992, on loan from the University of Michigan.   He is the author of Survey Errors and Survey Costs (Wiley, 1989), and co-author of Surveys by Telephone (Academic Press, 1979); Nonresponse in Household Interview Surveys (Wiley, 1998): chief editor of Telephone Survey Methodology (Wiley, 1988), and co-editor of Measurement Errors in Surveys (Wiley, 1991), as well as many articles in survey and statistical methodology.
Contact information: Mick Couper,  [email protected]
Robert Groves,  [email protected].edu
The Seymour Sudman Student Paper Award goes to "Social Desirability Bias in Estimated Support for a Black Presidential Candidate," by Jennifer Heerwig and Brian McCabe of New York University. 

Jennifer Heerwig is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at New York University.  Her current research projects investigate the impact of financialization on income and wealth inequality in the United States as well as the health and socioeconomic effects of military service.

Brian McCabe is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at New York University.  He holds an undergraduate degree in International Relations from Georgetown University and a graduate degree in Geography from the London School of Economics.  His current research examines the impact of housing type on educational achievement and other social outcomes.

In addition, the Selection Committee asked that Julianna Sandell Pacheco of Pennsylvania State University be given an Honorable Mention for her paper, "Political Socialization in Context: The Effect of Political Competition on Youth Voter Turnout."
Contact award winners:
Jennifer Heerwig, [email protected]
Brian McCabe, [email protected]
Julianna Sandell Pacheco, [email protected]