Mission and History
The Center was established in 1994 at Millersville University. This formalized a partnership between Berwood Yost and Terry Madonna, who in 1991 had together created the Keystone Poll to track public opinion on politics, public affairs, and elections in Pennsylvania. Mr. Yost became director of the Center and head methodologist for the Keystone poll. Dr. Madonna, who was then professor and chair of the Government Department and director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Millersville, continued in his role as director of the Keystone Poll.
Under Mr. Yost's leadership, the Center soon became widely known for providing reliable and accurate public opinion data to those involved in public policy, government, the media, business, and nonprofit work. The Center's research on public policy issues, in particular, has been used by decision makers in government organizations and advocacy groups, at both the local and state level, to create policy, inform the citizenry, and make positive changes in areas as varied as healthcare, education, government structure, and community services.
In 2003, both the Center for Opinion Research and the Center for Politics and Public Affairs moved from Millersville University to Franklin & Marshall College. At Franklin & Marshall, Mr. Yost became director of the new Floyd Institute for Public Policy. The Floyd Institute comprises the Center for Opinion Research, also directed by Mr. Yost, the Center for Politics and Public Affairs, directed by Dr. Madonna, and the Local Economy Center, directed by Antonio Callari, who is also the Sigmund M. and Mary B. Hyman Professor of Economics. At Franklin & Marshall, in addition to the Keystone Poll, the Center has continued to conduct public opinion research for community and state organizations, and has also made important contributions in the areas of scholarship and education. Since moving to Franklin & Marshall, the center's most significant work has included:
- Extensive research into how the permitting process for subdivisions and land development has evolved in Pennsylvania, designed to help state government and local municipalities better coordinate and expedite the development process. Funded by the Heinz Endowments and the William Penn Foundation, the study also looked at how development plans are used in other states and how those practices could be applied to Pennsylvania.
- Groundbreaking research into reproductive health and pregnancy outcomes among Amish women in Lancaster County. Funded by a federal grant through the Pennsylvania Department of Health, this was a collaboration of four partner organizations—Pennsylvania State University, the Family Health Council of Central Pennsylvania, Franklin & Marshall College, and Lock Haven University. The Center's study was a major part of this multidisciplinary effort to find the reasons for and reduce disparities in adverse pregnancy outcomes. Results are being used to design and implement programs to help improve the health status and habits of pregnant women.
In 2008, the Keystone Poll was re-named the Franklin & Marshall College Poll. Now in its 26th year, the poll continues to be a primary source of information for those involved in government, media, and public policy in Pennsylvania, and public officials have used the polls' results to argue for important public policy changes.
In 2009, the Center's offices and call center were relocated to the newly renovated Harris Center for Business, Government, and Public Policy. For the first time, the entire Floyd Institute for Public Policy (encompassing the Center for Opinion Research, the Center for Politics and Public Affairs, and the Local Economy Center) was housed in the same location, which greatly enhances collaboration among the three centers. The new space also includes a state-of-the-art focus group facility.
The Center for Opinion Research seeks to provide empirically sound research solutions and opportunities for academic and public policy researchers and the local community. The Center also aims to produce and disseminate information that supports learning by students, researchers, and the general public.