The school year might be over, but at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling, our work continues. Results of the next Rutgers-Eagleton Poll will be released during the next couple of weeks, and will include some new numbers on Christie and on the 2012 Obama-Romney election. In the meantime, we’ll be re-activating our social media presence here, on Facebook, and also on Twitter. It’s important to make connections to the public on many levels not only by releasing our data to the mainstream media, but also by streaming key bits of information directly to our social media followers.
Just recently, some of our ECPIP staffers were at the 67th annual American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) conference in Orlando, Florida where the main theme focused on “evaluating new frontiers in public opinion and social research.” Many of the presentations, papers, and posters explored the importance of innovative new survey techniques that primarily centered on the Internet – particularly through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. As our staffers learned at the conference, public opinion is entering a new era where people are becoming harder to reach through just landline and cell phones. New technologies like smartphones, iPads, text messaging, Skype, and avatar-based gaming are now being explored as alternative possibilities for data collection and assessing public sentiment. Researchers are collecting and analyzing Facebook statuses and Tweets to explore how public opinion through these sites can reflect, express, and predict overall public opinion and behavior. Yet, not everyone uses the Internet or shares their views on social networking sites, and some people are more likely to do so more than others. So in this continually changing world of communication technology, the conference did an amazing job of presenting the challenges and obstacles that lie ahead for us survey researchers and how we can possibly bridge the gap between our traditional methods and the future of public opinion.
If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably well aware of the vital role polling plays as an essential feedback mechanism for policy makers. What you may not be aware of, however, is that social media also provides essential feedback for us at ECPIP. We don’t just post results from our surveys on our social media feeds; we also try to find interesting content from the world of politics, state and national issues, other research and polls, and we even sprinkle in some fun things here and there. Although the responses we get from our followers aren’t exactly scientific, they do create an essential feedback loop that helps us better understand the interests of those who follow our polls.
With that in mind, we’d like to encourage you to not only follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and our blog, but to also actively participate in discussion threads with shares, comments, and “likes.” The more we hear from you, the better we’ll be able to understand the public that we aim to serve through our research and polling. This summer we plan to be very active in social media, posting content on both Facebook and Twitter, so be sure to come along for the ride.