Survey Research Center

The Institute for Social Research (ISR) is the world's largest university research institute devoted to the study of the social sciences. The largest unit within ISR is the Survey Research Center, where ongoing surveys and survey methodology research provide students with numerous and unique opportunities for learning from experience to supplement learning in the classroom and laboratory.

ISR provides a particularly rich setting for students interested in learning more about the survey method and how to apply it. ISR has made, throughout a more than 50 year history, a number of distinctive contributions to survey methodology and its application to the social sciences:

  • It has been a leader in the development of sampling theory and methods. Techniques developed at ISR underpin scientifically valid surveys in both public and private sectors, and in domains of study from psychology to politics to economics.
  • ISR has been a pioneer in the design of long-term panel studies, and in demonstrating their value for policy formulation and the development of models to further the understanding of causal models for social phenomenon.
  • The field of group dynamics, particularly organizational behavior, has been a central element of ISR since its founding, demonstrating how controlled experiments and empirical studies can shed light on group processes. ISR has also been a pioneer in the field of organizational behavior, publishing findings on large organizations, public and private, that stimulated the growth of a new discipline, organizational psychology. It is at ISR that T-groups and sensitivity training were developed.
  • ISR researchers have developed methods for studying errors in reasoning about the social world among individuals in society. Its researchers have also uncovered the key role individuals' distinctive self-schemas play in their worldviews and explored the key interplay of affect, cognition and preference.
  • Through the work of individuals with research interests in political science, ISR has led the scientific study of political behavior. Its researchers' application of the principles of social psychology to voter behavior led to a revolution in the methods and substance of political science. ISR's National Election Studies were declared by the National Science Foundation to be a national resource in 1977, the first project of its kind to receive such a designation.
  • ISR researchers have been at the forefront of economic discovery. They have demonstrated the powerful marketplace effect of consumer attitudes and behaviors and made Institute consumer surveys leading economic indicators for government. ISR surveys, most notably the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, have documented the high turnover in the poverty population, countering widespread beliefs about a culture of poverty; they have also demonstrated the importance of family stability in economic success.
  • The study of youth and drugs is now in its fourth decade at ISR. Findings have guided national and local policy and allowed the nation to measure the extent and shifting contours of substance abuse among teens. The study's duration and design have allowed researchers to probe motivations and check long-term effects. Follow-up studies of youth, for example, provided the first epidemiological evidence of the strength of nicotine addiction.
  • Several decades of research that revolutionized our understanding of the determinants of health and longevity in individuals and populations have had substantial contributions by Institute researchers. Findings from ISR studies have shown that social, psychological, and behavioral factors are equally or more important as biological and medical factors.
  • Through an extensive data archive started in the 1950's, ISR has led the way in data sharing, establishing a national library for data at a time when research findings were still jealously guarded by investigators. Through an inter-university consortium for social and political research data, ISR opened its vaults of data and encouraged others to do likewise. Today, with the growth of computer access, researchers everywhere can gain access to the consortium's rich bodies of data and analyze them, multiplying their potential value to society.
  • A leader in the emerging field of cultural psychology, ISR has also fostered the development of social science institutes in Brazil, Poland, China, and South Africa. To these ventures ISR brings not only scientific expertise but 50 years' experience building an institution devoted to social science in the public interest.

For a detailed listing of SRC related research, please view the SRC website.