Roper Center for Public Opinion Research

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History of the Roper Center


 

Roper Center History

Elmo RoperElmo Roper founded the Roper Center just after World War II. He and George Gallup played leading roles in its subsequent development. The survey organizations they established have continued to contribute their polls to the Center's library, and scores of other survey organizations in the United States, and many foreign countries, have followed their example. The roster of organizations now contributing data is a virtual "who's who" of contemporary opinion research. Several thousand polls taken in some 70 foreign countries are also housed in the Center's library. By constantly adding to the domestic and international collections of survey data, the Roper Center maintains what is by far the most complete collection of public opinion information in existence.

George GallupPublic opinion polls have a natural appeal in a democratic society. While many political figures claim to speak for the people, when they are done well, public opinion polls let the people speak for themselves. At its best, polling can amplify the public's voice so that it may be heard over the clamor of special interests. As George Gallup believed,"... public opinion research is a necessary and valuable aid to a truly representative government." Each year since the mid-1970s, the number of polls conducted and reported has increased exponentially. Rather than providing clarity, this wealth of polling data has led at times, both intentionally and unintentionally, to the distortion of the public's voice. Inadequate readings of survey results or problems within surveys, whether from loaded question wording or faulty sampling, can limit the capacity of polls to capture what public opinion really is. 

Curbing the distortion of the public's voice as it is expressed through polls, and affirming responsible and imaginative applications of good survey work, are core tenets of the Roper Center's mission. Many give theoretical acknowledgment to the idea that the public must be heard accurately; but the Roper Center alone is building a comprehensive research facility to ensure that the views of the public are recorded properly. The Center brings individual surveys together enabling any researcher to better grasp what public opinion is. Survey data housed in the Center's extensive archive are made accessible to academic and policy researchers, the press, business, and others who are interested in poll findings. The Center's graduate training program, moreover, works to give students a firm grounding in the essentials of survey research, preparing them to play a role in the professional world of survey research. With the largest public opinion library available anywhere in the world, one that is complemented by rigorous training and publications programs, the Roper Center provides for a "public audit" of polling data and reports of public opinion. As a non-profit, non-partisan public opinion data archive, the Center is in a unique position to help clarify the public's voice.


For further information please contact The Roper Center at 860.486.4440 or rcweb@ropercenter.uconn.edu.

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