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Three Eras of Survey Research

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Groves, Robert M. 2011. "Three Eras of Survey Research." Public Opinion Quarterly, 75(5): 861-871.

Although survey research is a young field relative to many scientific domains, it has already experienced three distinct stages of development. In the first era (1930-1960), the founders of the field invented the basic components of the design of data collection and the tools to produce the statistical information from surveys. As they were inventing the method, they were also building the institutions that conduct surveys in the private, academic, and government sectors. The second era (1960-1990) witnessed a vast growth in the use of the survey method. This growth was aided by the needs of the U.S. federal government to monitor the effects of investments in human and physical infrastructure, the growth of the quantitative social sciences, and the use of quantitative information to study consumer behaviors. The third era (1990 and forward) witnessed the declines in survey participation rates, the growth of alternative modes of data collection, the weakening of sampling frames, and the growth of continuously produced process data from digital systems in all sectors, but especially those emanating from the Internet. Throughout each era, survey research methods adapted to changes in society and exploited new technologies when they proved valuable to the field.

DOI:10.1093/poq/nfr057 (Full Text)

Country of focus: United States.

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