The Program in Politics and Law funded Dartmouth’s participation in two large research projects in which Dartmouth faculty and students fielded innovative public opinion surveys during the 2008 congressional and presidential elections. Telephone surveys are becoming less representative of the US population as more people abandon land lines in favor of cell phones and refuse to answer surveys due to overmarketing. An increasingly viable alternative is the Internet-based survey. Internet surveys have many advantages over telephone surveys, such as allowing respondents to answer questions at their own convenience and pace and allowing researchers to include graphics and photos as part of the survey. Dartmouth has partnered with sixteen other universities—including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Duke, UCLA, MIT, Oxford, and Cambridge—to develop and refine Internet based surveys. Through a private company, YouGov/Polimetrix, we pooled resources to conduct two surveys during the 2008 elections. We were able to interview over 30,000 US residents almost monthly from December 2007 to December 2008.
The first survey, the Cooperative Congressional Elections Study (CCES), focused on completion of several hundred interviews in every US state in order to provide comparable samples of public opinion across the states. No other surveys have the ability to compare samples across states since no other surveys interview sufficient numbers of people in every state. Dartmouth researchers, led by Professors Michael Herron and Joe Bafumi, included hundreds of questions on the survey in support of several research topics. For instance, the survey included questions about public opinion on high profile bills currently under consideration by Congress. Professors Herron and Bafumi use these responses to show how the votes of members of Congress deviate from the opinions of their constituents. They are also working with several students and other Dartmouth faculty members on projects derived from the CCES data.
The second survey, the Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project (CCAP), completed several hundred interviews in every US state in every month during the presidential election season from December 2007 through December 2008. Dartmouth students wrote questions to include on the survey. Some questions focused on the presidential election, but many others asked respondents their opinions on capital punishment, environmental regulations, gun control, and the ease of registering to vote and going to the polls. Based on data from these surveys, Dartmouth students and faculty are collaborating on several research projects, including how public support for capital punishment varies across states, public knowledge of and support for recent Supreme Court decisions on gun ownership (District of Columbia v. Heller), the reasons for significant differences in voter turnout across states, and public opinion on immigration, health care, and environmental regulations.
Dartmouth’s participation in the CCES and CCAP would not have been possible without funding from the Program in Politics and Law. By participating in the project, Dartmouth students and faculty also have access to the data from every other institution’s portion of the survey. Several Dartmouth students are using these data in their work as presidential scholars, in research papers for classes, and in senior theses.
Copyright 2009: Trustees of Dartmouth College.