Thursday, June 16, 2011

Roper and the $1000 Sundae

Earlier this week, I went to one day of nearby library conference and I attended a session about public opinion resources. One of the presenters at this session was from Roper Center at the University of Connecticut which produces iPOLL, a database of the polls from every major survey organization going back to the 1930s. For me, watching the presenter demo iPOLL was like watching a chef make the $1000 sundae at Serendipity restaurant in New York City -- You salivate over the end product, but you know there is no way you can afford it.

Luckily for those of us who crave public opinion data but can't part with a silver spoon to pay for it, Roper has put some free resources on their website. One is their Topics at a Glance section which contains preselected iPOLL data on a variety of what they call "hot topics". So for example, you can get some recent numbers related to the public's confidence in the economy or education or Congress. Also you can find poll results on social issues like drugs or lifestyle information like following sports. It's not as robust as I might like, but you can't beat the price. In addition, Roper provides historic data on presidential approval for free. So if you want to know how Obama's high and low numbers compare to other presidents back to FDR, you can find out.

While I may never get to devour the $1000 sundae of public opinion, I think I can make do with the occasional free scoop that comes my way. After all, finding something wonderful for free, even if it is only a little bit of it, makes this librarian smile :-)