Social Science Research with Broad Impact

Our highly entrepreneurial research scientists, often in collaboration with colleagues around the globe, generate superb data that is used by governments and private institutions worldwide to advocate for informed, effective, evidence-based policy decisions. Through this ever-evolving process of data creation and interpretation, we have influenced the lives of countless individuals and groups across the globe. Many of the social science methods developed at ISR are used today in business and public policy. Here are just a few examples of the reach and impact of our research:

  • ISR’s correct assessment of the 1948 U.S. presidential election (Truman vs. Dewey) demonstrated the value of scientific sampling techniques and forever changed the practice of polling and public opinion research. The American National Election Study (ANES) is the inspiration and model for almost 60 sibling studies around the world focused on understanding democracy.
  • ISR’s Monitoring the Future (MTF) project helped document that Big Tobacco’s “Joe Camel” marketing campaigns were targeting young people, who were smoking more as a consequence. The resulting law suit led to an eventual significant drop in youth smoking rates.
  • For more than 60 years, ISR’s Survey of Consumer Attitudes has exerted a major influence on macro-economic policy by accurately describing and predicting the ebbs and flows of consumer behaviors and their effect on the U.S. economy.
  • Through its groundbreaking Health and Retirement Study, ISR is helping corporations, individuals and governments better understand the dynamics of our aging society by exploring topics from retirement decision making to the societal costs of dementia.
  • The Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), MTF and ANES have been instrumental to federal policy-making for decades. Both serve as the basis for similar studies around the world.
  • ISR researchers are now exploring a new and promising frontier—working at the interface of genetics, biology, economics, and social and behavioral observations.
  • ISR has taken the lead in studying the causes and results of violence, with a particular focus on the impact of violent video games.

By necessity and choice, ISR research scientists have always been agile and innovative, adept at identifying relevant topics and new opportunities, ever alert to shifting trends and emerging issues. These are the qualities that have created our legacy of intellectual innovation and meaningful research. They are also the qualities that will sustain and enhance the viability and vitality of the Institute in the years to come.