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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Significant changes ahead for NES

NSF awards $7.6 million for a more multi-faceted, broadly collaborative, and interdisciplinary American National Election Studies

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $7.6 million to fund the American National Election Studies (ANES) to study the causes of voter participation and candidate choice in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.
This award represents a dramatic increase in NSF's funding for the project, more than doubling the financial support it received during 2002-2005.

The substantial increase in funding for the project is the result of two years of advisory workshops held by NSF to evaluate the study's scientific value and innovative directions for its future. "This award allows us to conduct the project in much bigger and better ways than has ever been possible," said Arthur Lupia, one of two principal investigators of the project. "NSF's ringing endorsement of the project is a wonderful recognition of 50 years of important scholarship by hundreds of social scientists studying elections and will equip them superbly to continue this important work," said Jon Krosnick, also a principal investigator.

The centerpiece of the 2005-2009 study will be state-of-the-art hour-long interviews with thousands of Americans face-to-face in their homes both before and again after the November, 2008, election. The questionnaires will ask hundreds of questions of respondents, measuring their opinions on a wide array of political issues, their assessments of the health of the nation, their hopes for government action in the future, their perceptions of the candidates and their platforms, their behavioral participation in the campaign and in politics more generally, and much more. Many of these questions have been asked identically every two years since the 1950s, allowing scholars to track changes in the American electorate over time.

In addition, a nationally representative sample of American adults will be recruited during 2007 and will answer questions once a month for 21 consecutive months, continuing well after the presidential inauguration in 2009. This will allow researchers to study which citizens change their candidate preferences when and why during the primaries and general election campaigns and how citizens react to the election outcome after the nation's new leader begins to govern.

A third component of the new project will be collaboration with another long-term national survey project, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, run by the Ohio State University's Center for Human Resource Research. As a result, questions measuring political opinions and behavior will be asked of a representative sample of thousands of young adults every two years, illuminating patterns of long-term change of individuals across elections.

The November, 2008, pre-election and post-election face-to-face interviews will employ innovative new measurement techniques for the first time in the ANES, such as using laptop computers to display questions and answer choices confidentially to respondents and allowing them to answer secretly. In addition, for the first time, the computers will show respondents election-related photographs and videos to enhance measurement of what voters learn during the campaign.

The computers will also measure the speed with which respondents make judgments, using the latest techniques from social and cognitive psychology. This will entail the use of measurement tools that have been used extensively in laboratories around the world but have rarely been administered in surveys of representative national samples of adults.

Response speed measurement is one way to elucidate automatic processes that occur unconsciously in the brain and guide political thinking and action. "By combining self-reports that measure opinions and measurements of response speed, we can better understand the impact of sensitive attitudes, including prejudice and stereotyping." explained Lupia.

2006 will mark a substantial expansion of the number of academic disciplines that will influence and be served by the ANES. The Board of Overseers will double in size to include 20 world-renowned professors from political science, psychology, sociology, economics, and communication.

During the coming years, substantial efforts will be mounted to encourage scholars from all of these disciplines and others as well to submit proposals about how the study should be designed and what questions should be asked of the survey respondents.

The ANES has conducted gold-standard national surveys every two years since then to equip scholars around the world to study American voting behavior and election outcomes. Thousands of books, journal articles, book chapters, and conference presentations have been based upon ANES data during the last five decades. It was created by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research (ISR) in 1952 and is now administered jointly by ISR and Stanford University's Institute for Research in the Social Sciences.

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Related Links:
ANES Homepage:
Krosnick Homepage:
Lupia Homepage:

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