The President’s Perspective: AAPOR in the Next Decade


(From AAPOR News, Summer 2014)

By Michael Link, President 2014-2015

What will AAPOR be a decade from now? It’s a question that may seem strange or even a bit naive to ask given all we have to face today. Dramatic and continued advances in technologies, evolving social attitudes and behaviors, and globalization are rapidly changing the landscape across which AAPOR members work. People have new ways of expressing their attitudes, views, behaviors, preferences and thoughts — their “public opinion,” to use the word in its most generic sense. AAPOR and its members now face opportunities and challenges of a breadth, scale, and speed previously unseen. It is exactly for these reasons that we need to look to the future now.

This month we launch AAPOR2025, a decade-long initiative to help us drive where we want to go as an association of members united around a common set of interests. The cornerstone of this initiative is the AAPOR2025 Strategic Vision, which provides forward-looking guidance for the long-term strategic thinking of the association over the next decade. Consistent with our mission and goals, the AAPOR2025 Strategic Vision serves as a statement on the character and purpose of AAPOR in the year 2025 with the hope of ensuring that our organization remains vibrant, prominent and relevant for future generations of members. Developed by a task force established by AAPOR Council in December 2013, the vision reflects the views and opinions of a wide range of members and focuses on several critical areas: upholding our shared common values and member diversity across multiple dimensions; embracing new ways of conceptualizing and measuring “opinions,” while maintaining our focus on scientific rigor and transparency; serving members at all career stages through professional development and education; advocating and educating the public, news media, decision-makers and other on the importance of quality measurement and need to support organizations critical to our field; and, embracing a true global leadership role in our industry.

The AAPOR2025 Task Force members included: Jennifer Romano Bergstrom, Jennifer Hunter Childs, Eleni Delimpaltadaki Janis, Patricia Moy, Joe Murphy, Robert Santos, Michael Schober and Susan Tibbitts. I had the pleasure of serving as task force chair. In developing the AAPOR2025 Vision Statement, the group gathered input and feedback from a number of sources, including interviews with a diverse set of professionals at various life and career stages, review of long-term strategic visions put forth by other professional organizations, and feedback from the members.

Why Take Such a Long View?

Why should AAPOR undertake such a long-term initiative and don’t we already engage in strategic planning? Over the past eight-to-ten years, how we function as an organization and how Council operates have changed significantly. There is an increasing emphasis on strategic planning and goal-setting, which has served our organization well. Much of this planning, however, tends to be short- to medium-term. While there are a few notable exceptions, Council has rarely taken a long-view looking at a decade-long horizon and never in such a comprehensive manner. I believe the environment in which we find ourselves professionally (rapid changes in society, technology, communication; globalization; declining resources; critical declines in public cooperation; threats from cheap, low-quality, at times even dubious alternatives, etc.) demands that we establish a longer-term course; and, the very positive position the insightful actions of previous Councils have placed us in allows us to take such action. Make no mistake — Council and the many committees and groups that deliver member services will need to continue to make mid-range and short-term, tactical, and strategic plans — these are necessary for the good functioning of our association under any condition. But these actions will now also be informed by a long-range framework. In this sense, AAPOR2025 provides a long-term destination, but not necessarily the specific road map on how to get there.

A Decade Is a Long Time

With things changing so rapidly, can we really accurately project more than a decade into the future?  AAPOR2025 is not about projecting the future, it’s about making it happen. In developing the vision, we took great care to ask first: what is unique and necessary about AAPOR? In this respect, our core values — collegiality, integrity, rigor, transparency, and intellectual sharing — rose to the top. These values, manifest in different ways over the decades, have been at the heart of AAPOR since our founding in 1947 and will continue to drive us at the core. Next, we asked: How must the organization evolve to meet the future needs of our members? There is a mix of elements on this; some areas in which we are already involved (i.e., professional development, advocacy for quality research) and should continue with renewed vigor and innovative thinking, and other areas which may be more controversial — often debated, yet never embraced officially (i.e., moving beyond the perceived sole reliance on survey research, embracing a global leadership role). In all, AAPOR2025 focuses on the necessary evolution of our association, rather than wholesale change.

AAPOR2025 will allow us to chart a future course for success, helping to frame and inform our near-term goals and actions. Defining the future now will help to ensure that our organization continues to serve as a vibrant home for the next generation of researchers — as it has for many of us and our predecessors for more than seven decades.

Over the next year [through April 2015], I will be providing my thoughts and views on some of the specific aspects of AAPOR2025. I welcome and look forward to hearing your opinions and ideas, as well. Let’s make the future now!