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American Association for Public Opinion Research

AAPOR Profile: Eleanor Singer

by Roger Tourangeau, President
When it comes to AAPOR, Eleanor Singer has pretty much done it all.  She served on Council five times (which may be a record!)—twice as Councilor-at-Large, once as Conference Chair, once as Standards Chair, and as President in 1987-1988.  She also edited Public Opinion Quarterly for 11 years, from 1975-1986.  (In that role, she accepted my first POQ paper, with Wade Smith.  I’ll always be grateful to her for that.)  Before that, she served as the journal’s managing editor.   She also edited a special issue of POQ on nonresponse bias in household surveys in 2006.  No one has done as much for Public Opinion Quarterly as Eleanor has.
Eleanor’s research has encompassed a wide range of topics.  Her first survey project was, in her own words, “a national face-to-face study of the social functioning of Parkinson patients treated with levodopa, then still classed as an experimental drug,” sponsored by Hoffman-LaRoche. Another early project of hers looked at the effects of requiring consent on survey participation.  She proposed to do an experiment that varied information about the content of the survey, the assurances of confidentiality, and the requirement and timing of a signature to document consent;  the proposal was funded by the National Science Foundation (not bad for a near rookie!).  This began a long line of research on ethical issues in research on human subjects.  More recently, she has done research on incentives, nonresponse and nonresponse bias, medical decision-making, and attitudes toward genetic testing—just to name a few.  
Eleanor got her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1966 and held various positions at Columbia from 1966 to 1994, when she joined the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan, until she “retired” in 2006.  We were colleagues at Michigan during much of this period.  She has an article in the most recent issue of the Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology (with Joseph Sakshaug and others) on “consent” bias—biases reflecting differences in who agrees to have their government address information released to a survey firm.
She received the AAPOR Award for Exceptionally Distinguished Achievement in 1996.  More recently, she was the second recipient of the American Statistical Association’s Monroe G. Sirken Award for Interdisciplinary Survey Methods Research.  Her talk at the Joint Statistical Meetings (“Reflections on Surveys’ Past and Future”) will come out in the next issue of JSSAM.