Friday, June 26, 2009

New Database: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research

Sawyer Library recently added a most impressive databank of polling research. It is sometimes referred to as The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, and is other times referred to by the Center's major database component, iPOLL.

Whatever you call it, The Roper Center, housed at the University of Connecticut, is one of the world's leading archives of social science statistics, specializing in data from surveys of public opinion. The Center's mission includes promoting the informed use of survey research and public opinion information; maintaining, and constantly enlarging, a computer-based library of survey research and public opinion data; developing access tools for researchers to secure required information; and increasing international understanding and promoting cross-national research on political and social issues.

The data held by the Roper Center range from the 1930s, when survey research was in its infancy, to the present. Most of the data are from the United States, but over 50 nations are represented.

iPOLL, their easy-to-use database is the most comprehensive, up-to-date source for US nationwide public opinion available today. A full-text retrieval system, the iPOLL online database is organized at the question-level. The system allows for users to sift through nearly half a million questions archived from national public opinion surveys since 1935. The database is updated daily. iPOLL includes data survey results from academic, commercial and media survey organizations such as Gallup Organization, Harris Interactive, Pew Research Associates, and many more. The data come from all the surveys in the Roper Center archive that have US national adult samples or samples of registered voters, women, African Americans, or any subpopulation that constitutes a large segment of the national adult population.

To access iPOLL, click the large icon link on the homepage, or choose the option from "Data Access" pull-down menu. You will first enter your email and fill out a short registration form, and then accept the terms and conditions.

You will then have access to the files. Search for keywords within the extensive topic list categories. Often the immediate poll results, with questions and numerical breakdowns of responses, will be all you will need.

However, Roper also allows you to manipulate and download much of their data. RoperExpress is a data access tool for on-demand downloads. Faculty and students at Suffolk now have unlimited access to those datasets in the Roper Center collection that are in ASCII or SPSS portable formats. Simply do a search for datasets and the studies accessible for immediate download in RoperExpress are marked with an icon: Although the Center does assume that anyone wishing to do SPSS work with their data is familiar with the program and has access to the software, Roper does provide a page with guidelines for bringing ASCII data files into SPSS. Here users have the opportunity to download sample SPSS syntax files with their corresponding datasets and codebooks. (Please note, SPSS, a productivity software package for "number crunching" is available at the University computer labs, but is not available at Sawyer Library.)

Roper has several pages of tutorials and other educational materials to get people started. You might want to take a look at their 20 page PDF introduction to iPOLL. Their page on the Fundamentals of Polling is also a useful. Those interested can also look at one on Analyzing Polls. There's even a glossary of terms for the field of public opinion research. A Topics at a Glance page provides a sampling of different types of surveys to help you get a sense of what the Roper Center has and does.

Those who are interested in polling data might want to know that Sawyer Library also provides access to Polling the Nations, an online database of public opinion polls containing nearly one half million questions and responses from 14,000 surveys conducted from 1986 through the present in the U.S. and 100 other countries. However, Polling the Nations is less extensive and updated less often. (We also have a limited access contract, so please be sure to logout when you finish using it.) In addition, according to Roper, because nearly 60% of iPOLL questions are linked to respondent level datasets, this new database provides researchers access to the full questionnaire and details of the methodology, codes, demographic variables, etc. instantly. iPOLL also provides search within results, save a search, and search history features.

Public opinion data can be useful for students and faculty in a wide variety of disciplines, from Communication to Marketing to Government to Sociology. So we hope you'll explore this database anytime you need to get some measure of American attitudes.

[FIND Roper Center for Public Opinion Research on our "Databases by Subject" List on the second column of our "Social Sciences" list.]