Over the years, the Center for Opinion Research has developed a reputation for accuracy, reliability, and insight matched by few survey research organizations. During FY 2014, we continued to build on this reputation, conducting a number of substantial and noteworthy research projects.
Our public policy related research took on particular significance this year, as we conducted extensive statewide studies for several Pennsylvania advocacy organizations. These included an assessment of public support for programs and services for people with disabilities, for the Arc of Pennsylvania, and an evaluation of Pennsylvanians’ attitudes about child abuse and neglect, for the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. PFSA called our child abuse research “groundbreaking,” and released a report, Childhood at Risk: An Exploration of Perceptions and Attitudes Regarding Child Abuse, based on the Center’s work. In addition, Center director Berwood Yost was invited to testify before the Pennsylvania House Children and Youth Committee about the research.
Another significant public policy related study this year was an assessment of consumer demand for natural gas in Pennsylvania, commissioned by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania. Our survey was part of a larger study that the Pennsylvania Senate directed the Center for Rural PA to perform. The Senate is using the data to help develop legislation and policies regarding natural gas usage and infrastructure in the state.
Since 2014 was an important election year, the Franklin & Marshall College poll also took on more significance in FY14. We conducted five polls between January and June, primarily to assess voter opinion on the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race. The F&M Poll continued to generate a great deal of positive media coverage for the college, including in such national outlets as the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post, and Politico.
In addition to the F&M Poll, the Center carried out numerous surveys for various groups at F&M, including the Board of Trustees, the Sustainability Committee, and the Office of the Provost. Among the most important projects were a campus-wide student health needs assessment; a survey to gauge faculty and staff opinion on whether F&M’s public safety officers should be armed; and a partnership with Professor Kirk Miller of the Biology Department to conduct health research among the Amish of Lancaster County. This health research is part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Genomics grant to F&M, and during FY14 it generated substantial interest in the public health research community. Research topics include a comparison of asthma rates in both the Amish and general populations of central Pennsylvania, and a health needs assessment of the Amish Community in Lancaster County.
In keeping with our commitment to serve the community, during FY14 the Center also conducted a number of studies, on a variety of topics, for groups in central Pennsylvania. These included an evaluation of the Lancaster County Community Foundation’s Upstream/Downstream environmental program; a survey of how religious congregations address health issues among their members, for Lancaster General Health; numerous program evaluations and surveys for the School District of Lancaster; and a community needs assessment for the United Way of Lancaster County.
The Center holds a unique place in the survey research landscape in Pennsylvania, primarily because we are situated within a liberal arts college. Through our partnerships with F&M faculty, we are able to engage in rigorous scholarship; we also draw on the academic wealth of the college, along with our own scholarly research, in designing and conducting survey research projects. We are pleased to have helped so many different groups this year—at F&M, in the local community, and throughout the state—answer important questions, make strategic decisions, educate and inform the public, and advocate for change.