The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Political Science Team from Texas and Michigan to Conduct 2020 American National Election Study

Thu, October 11, 2018
Political Science Team from Texas and Michigan to Conduct 2020 American National Election Study
Texas joins NSF grant to study the 2020 election

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $6.6 million grant to researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor for the 2020 American National Election Study (ANES). The centerpieces of the project are pre- and post-election surveys examining voter participation and decision-making in the 2020 presidential election. Professor Daron Shaw of the Texas Government Department is the project’s associate principle investigator, and Lindsay Dun will serve as the lead graduate research assistant from Texas.

The ANES is the longest-running election survey project in the world, having been conducted for every presidential election since 1948. At a time when cell phones and collapsing response rates have made quality probability sampling increasingly difficult, the face-to-face design of the ANES is widely considered the gold standard for those seeking to understand public opinion and voting behavior (to access previous election data, go to www.electionstudies.org/nesguide/nesguide.htm).

The University of Michigan has been involved in the ANES since its inception, while 2020 marks the first time The University of Texas has been a partner in the planning and execution of the poll.

“Everyone who studies elections and voting is familiar with the National Election Study,” says Professor Shaw. “Much of what we know about political behavior—especially with respect to campaigns and elections—draws on NES surveys. The challenge we face is to honor the time series and continuity of the project while also developing appropriate new instrumentation and exploring innovative data acquisition techniques.”

Professor Ted Brader (University of Michigan) will serve as the lead principle investigator for the 2020 ANES, while Professor Shaw will join Professor Nicholas Valentino (University of Michigan) as associate PIs. The face-to-face survey will be supplemented by a web-based survey, with Professor Shanto Iyengar (Stanford University) serving as the lead principle investigator and Professor Sunshine Hillygus (Duke University) joining as an associate PI.

Partnership in the ANES represents the crown jewel in the Government Department’s burgeoning presence in the field of survey research. Since 2007, Professor Shaw and Professor James Henson have conducted over thirty surveys of the state of Texas in conjunction with the Texas Tribune. The Government Department has also sponsored ten national polls over the past decade as part of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), a biennial survey project relying on data from YouGov.  

“This is more than simply an opportunity to shape a valuable resource in the study of voting and participation,” Professor Shaw observes. “Adding the NES to the other polling resources we have here makes us one of the preeminent places in the world to study and practice survey research.” The Government Department currently boasts numerous faculty with extensive theoretical and practical experience in polling, including Professors Bethany Albertson, Kenneth Greene, James Henson, Stephen Jesse, David Leal, Tse-min Lin, Robert Luskin, Tasha Philpot, Brian Roberts, and Christopher Wlezien.

In addition to his work as associate PI on the 2020 ANES, Professor Shaw currently runs the Fox News polls, along with Chris Anderson of Anderson-Robbins Research. Professor Shaw is also one of the lead investigators for the effort by Fox News and the Associated Press to design and execute an alternative to the exit polls for the 2018 midterm elections. This project will rely on NORC at the University of Chicago to conduct thousands of interviews with voters in the days leading up to and including Election Day.

“The polling industry is changing rapidly, but the bedrock principles remain the same,” claims Shaw. “These are exciting times to study public opinion and projects like these allow faculty and students to create the knowledge of tomorrow.”

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