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Memo
To: Members of the ANES Research Community
From: ANES Board of Directors
Re: The 2000 National Election Study: An Update
Date: January 31, 2001

To the NES Research Community:

We are writing to update you about developments concerning National Science Foundation funding of the NES. These are developments that you, and all who care about NES, should know about. We also want your advice.

On August 1, 2000 we submitted a proposal to NSF to extend the NES through the 2002 and 2004 elections. According to new guidelines imposed by the NSF Political Science program, possible funding for the core NES studies was capped at $2 million over four years. Compared to NSF funding for NES core activities across the 1996-2000 period, the $2 million cap represents a 50% cut in funding. In order to preserve and extend the NES time-series within these budgetary constraints, our response was to propose moving the NES to RDD sampling and phone interviewing in 2002 and 2004.

NSF reviewers and panelists have now reviewed our proposal. Although support for NES remains strong, many reviewers expressed concerns---which we share---about the possible damage to NES brought by moving the study to RDD/phone after 50 years of area probability sampling and face-to-face interviewing. We have been invited to resubmit a proposal, due March 1st, to respond to these concerns about NES data quality and continuity. The proposal must respect the $2 million funding cap, but may also introduce arguments for exceeding it.

Our goal in resubmitting is to make the strongest possible case about the scientific value of the NES and the importance of extending the time-series. We will lay out the costs and benefits of carrying out the data collection through traditional face-to-face methods, moving the study to an RDD/phone design, and of extending the split-mode design we introduced in the 2000 study. We will strive to ensure the continuity and high quality of the NES. Ideally, we would do so by continuing the mode of data collection used over the past 50 years. In the present funding environment, a mix of telephone and face-to-face interviews is the best we think we can expect.

Extending the mode-comparison beyond the 2000 study would protect the integrity of the NES time series since half of the data would be gathered via the traditional design. It would help scholars pin down mode effects, generally, and enable NES to work out exactly how the move to phone affects the NES time-series, specifically. It would provide leverage for understanding how changes taking place in the telecommunications industry, and in citizens' responses to survey researchers who call them on the phone, are affecting data quality and the NES studies. It would give the entire community of scholars and who work with NES data a chance to reflect upon the transition and its effect on their work, a chance for feedback to be reflected in the construction of the additional mode comparisons, and a chance for the community to actively help focus the direction that NES takes in the future.

Even under the most optimistic scenario, however, the decrease in support for NES at NSF will mean cutbacks in sample sizes and in support services that will affect all who use NES data. It is thus clear that the NES must diversify its funding base in the future. We must build funding coalitions between the NSF and private foundations, like the coalition we built with the Russell Sage Foundation, via the social trust initiative, to support data collection costs in 2000. Only by doing so will NES receive the budget needed to provide the data and services it has provided in the past.

We are interested in your reaction to these developments at the NSF and your ideas about how NES should respond in the short- and long-run. We can be reached by email: anes@electionstudies.org or mail: ANES, Room 4100 Center for Political Studies, Institute for Social Research, P.O. Box 1248, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106. At the Midwest Political Science Association Conference in Chicago, in April, we will be having a public meeting to pass on any additional news and to gather your feedback. We hope you will be able to attend.

Sincerely yours,

Stephen Ansolabehere, Board Member
Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Nancy Burns, Principal Investigator
Department of Political Science, University of Michigan
Charles H. Franklin, Board Member
Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin - Madison
John Mark Hansen, Board Member
Department of Political Science, University of Chicago
Robert Huckfeldt, Board Member
Department of Political Science, Indiana University
Donald Kinder, Co-Principal Investigator
Department of Political Science, University of Michigan
Jon A. Krosnick, Board Member
Departments of Psychology and Political Science, Ohio State University
Arthur Lupia, Board Member
Department of Political Science, University of California, San Diego
Wendy Rahn, Board Member
Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota
W. Phillips Shively, Board Member
Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota
Laura Stoker, Board Member and Chair
Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley