MAPOR Fellows Leo Jeffres (1998), Cecilie Gaziano (2000), Lee Becker (1996), Sharon Dunwoody (2005) and Dave Weaver (1993) after the final session.

Cox Center Researchers Present Papers in Chicago On Media Freedom Evaluations and Sampling Designs

Scholars from the University of Georgia presented papers at a gathering of nearly 200 public opinion researchers in Chicago in November linking lay and elite evaluations of media freedom and showing the value of sampling from voter lists in studies of local communities.

Dr. Lee B. Becker told the group that research he and colleague Dr. Tudor Vlad had conducted showed that the public largely agrees with professional evaluators in the assessment of the level of press freedom in a country.

The findings are based on analysis of public opinion data in a diverse group of 20 countries around the world. The researchers compared what the public said with how evaluators from Freedom House in Washington and Reporters without Borders in Paris assessed media freedom in those countries.

Dr. Becker is director and Dr. Vlad is associate director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia.

Qingmei Qing, a graduate student at Georgia, told the Chicago conference that two studies she, Dr. Becker and Dr. Nicoleta Corbu from Romania had conducted showed that
voter list-based sampling is a good, inexpensive method to obtain accurate samples.

Both of the studies provided good estimates of elections outcome, not only in a telephone survey, but also in a mail survey, the research showed.

Additionally, voter lists offer a great advantage in providing voting history, as well as demographic characteristics for each voter, which can be a good base for testing the samples accuracy and for refining the forecasting in order to obtain a more accurate outcome prediction, the researchers concluded.

Dr. Corbu was a visiting Fulbright Scholar in the Cox Center during academic year 2008-2009, when the study was conducted. The Cox Center is a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

Qing is a doctoral student in the Grady College.

The Chicago conference was held Nov. 20 and 21 at the Avenue Hotel off Michigan Avenue. Those gathered were members of the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research.

The report by Drs. Becker and Vlad is part of an ongoing research project looking at how characteristics of media systems around the world are classified.

The researcher found, consistent with their earlier work, that Freedom House, Reporters without Borders, and IREX, also based in Washington, largely agree in their evaluations of media systems around the world.

In addition, the rating organizations provide assessments that are largely consistent year-to-year.

The team linked the public opinion data with the evaluations provided by these organizations to determine if the elite perspectives were shared by the population at large. The public opinion data had been gathered by at the University of Maryland.

The findings showed that the elite evaluations were strongly related to the lay evaluations of media freedom but not to lay evaluations of other concepts, such as freedom of expression.

Drs. Becker and Vlad argued that this finding should lead to increased confidence in the elite evaluations.