Adapting For The Future - Learnings From 2019 SAPOR Annual Conference

Megan Waggy
Megan Waggy Research Survey Scientist, RTI International
Survey focus group

Efficiency in survey research, data collection and analysis is a must for organizations and research institutions, and we are always looking for ways to improve.

This was very apparent at the 2019 annual conference for the Southern Association for Public Opinion Research (SAPOR), where we learned first-hand that in a truly ever-changing world, research professionals must be adaptive (and cost-friendly), or we’re going to get left behind.

SAPOR’s 2019 conference was comprised of both professional and academic staff, all interested in sharing expertise in research innovation so that we can continue producing world-changing results. The variety of topics and examples presented was eye-opening and one of the aspects I enjoyed most about this event. There is truly something for everyone!

  • Improvements in Data Collection
    • As a session presenter, I contributed to the discussion on efforts to improve data collection. From electronic incentives and shortened interviewer training times, to the consideration of new technologies such as face-to-face interviewing via videoconferencing. There are myriad approaches to consider in today’s survey landscape.
  • Adapting with Big Data
    • The message of thinking outside the box and being adaptive continued with keynote speaker, Dr. Trent Buskirk. He passionately encouraged all SAPOR attendees to find their place in a ‘big data’ world. Citing numerous studies as examples, Dr. Buskirk expressed his view that survey researchers’ most strategic position is to help others interpret how best to use the big data that is out there. We talked about everything from AI programs to electronic device paradata to satellite imagery. By the end of this keynote, my admiration for statisticians who spend their days building models that include multiple data sources without going crazy had gone up!
  • Polling Trends
    • Expert panelists discussed trends in polling over time and expectations for voter behavior in 2020. The most interesting takeaway for me personally, was that the youth vote (new voters) really hasn’t changed over time. While we may see a lot of youth in the news who are excited about various issues, in the end, the same amount of youth come out and vote in the same way as in past elections. Our panelists do not expect to see a surge in youth voting in 2020 but are definitely open to the possibility of it from a research standpoint.
  • Redirected Inbound Calling Sample (RICS)
    • RICS is a relatively new method where misdialed toll-free numbers are re-directed to either automated or live interviewers prompting for a survey. It has been gaining traction within the last few years as a strategy for high volume sampling at lower costs compared to manually attempting calls to respondents at the same high volume.
  • Cultural Considerations
    • We took a look at social media reactions to the #MeToo movement across two countries. Are you surprised to hear that other countries are just as polarized as we are? Sometimes I think we should all just stop what we’re doing and study only politics and polarization – is there a conference on that I can sign up for? We concluded this session with a best practices presentation on survey translations. It is not enough to simply translate your content, you must also take into account cultural differences in how information is displayed. For example, a stereotypical American styled paragraph translated directly into Chinese may be quite confusing to a Chinese speaker who is used to a different sentence structure and organization.

At the end of the day, SAPOR was an opportunity to share the expertise I’ve gained at RTI and learn from other thought leaders in the research community. I walked away with knowledge of trends in the industry, and inspiration for what to consider for the future. The free lunches and swag were just an added bonus!

To learn more about impacting the research industry, read about RTI’s quality data collection services and experts.

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