Latin American Public Opinion Project
|Founder||Mitchell A. Seligson|
|Focus||Public opinion surveys in areas such as democratic values and political behavior|
Co-Director: Mitchell A. Seligson
The Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) is a large, cross-national regional research project specializing in the development, implementation, and analysis of public opinion surveys. Founded by Dr. Mitchell A. Seligson over two decades ago, its principal focus is on governance and democracy in Latin America. The AmericasBarometer is the best-known survey produced by LAPOP. It is the only survey of democratic public opinion and behavior that covers the Americas (North, Central, South, and the Caribbean). It measures democratic values and behaviors in the Americas using national probability samples of voting-age adults.
LAPOP has its origins in studies of democratic values in one country, Costa Rica. This pioneering public opinion research took place in the 1970s, a time in which much of the rest of Latin America was under the control of authoritarian regimes, prohibiting studies of public opinion. As democratization expanded in Latin America, LAPOP grew in scope and size. Today LAPOP regularly carries out public opinion surveys in nearly every country in Latin America, Canada, the United States, and much of Caribbean.
LAPOP is housed at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt is a research university that for over 60 years has been a leader in the study of Latin America and the Caribbean. At this host institution, a team of faculty, staff, post-doctoral researchers, and graduate students designs and analyses the public opinion surveys generated in the project. The group also edits and publishes the bi-weekly Insights Series reports, each one of which examines a single facet of public opinion. LAPOP’s network extends far beyond the Vanderbilt campus, to include partner institutions throughout the Americas and an international advisory board.
LAPOP functions as a consortium, working in partnership with numerous academic and non-governmental institutions in Latin America and the Caribbean. It collaborates with these institutions, sharing ideas for survey content and working together to disseminate the results of the public opinion surveys to the citizens of participating countries. This dissemination of results takes the form of systematic country reports, comparative studies, panel presentations, and media interviews.
In 2004, LAPOP established the AmericasBarometer as multi-country, regularly-conducted surveys of democratic values and behaviors in the Americas, organized by a consortium of academic and think-tank partners in the hemisphere. The first round included voting-age respondents from 11 countries. The second round of surveys took place in 2006 and included 22 countries from the hemisphere. The third round, 2008, included 24 countries in the Americas. The most recent two rounds of surveys were conducted in 2010 and 2012, with 26 countries across North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The AmericasBarometer is the most expansive regional survey project in the Western Hemisphere.
|Survey Round||Countries Included|
|2004||Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama|
|2006||Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela|
|2008||Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela|
|2010||Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela|
|2012||Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela|
Methods and Practices
Cutting-edge methods and transparent practices ensure that data collected by LAPOP are of the highest quality. These methods and practices include the following:
- Solicitation of input from a vast network of academics, practitioners, and policymakers
- Use of Vanderbilt University’s experimental research lab to test new items
- Extensive in-country pre-testing of survey items
- Translation of surveys into more than 15 languages spoken in the Americas
- Expert design of national probability samples
- Approval from Vanderbilt University’s Institutional Review Board for the protection of human subjects
- Rigorous training of all interviewers using guidelines published in extensive training manuals
- Partnerships with reputable survey organizations in the regions
- Widespread use of electronic handheld devices (PDAs and smartphones) and software designed by LAPOP to allow multilingual interviews and extensive validity checks
- Participants are voting-age adults interviewed face to face in their households, except in Canada and the United States where the interviews are web-based
- Use of cutting-edge statistical programs and methods
- Presentation of results in clear, user-friendly graphs
- Public dissemination of results in surveyed design and methods on the LAPOP website
- Immediately uploading of data into LAPOP’s free interactive data analysis program
LAPOP’s resources and expertise allow it to conduct special projects requested by scholars, government institutions, and agencies concerned with democratic development. These have recently included novel experiments embedded within national surveys to assess issues of ethnicity and violence. In addition, these include an extensive new focus on randomized block experiments as a means of program evaluation.
Use of LAPOP Data
The data are used by academic researchers; the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in its efforts to promote democracy and good governance in Latin America and the Caribbean; the World Bank in its Governance Indicators series; the Inter-American Development Bank in its numerous research projects; the United Nations Development Programme and the Organization of American States in their democracy programs; and most significantly, by the governments of several Latin American countries as a source of independent information with which to assess public opinion and shape policy.