Center for Social Research

Now in development: the Kent County Deliberative Poll


Civic-minded friends, watch this space for news about our newest initiative, the Kent County Deliberative Poll®, inspired by and intended for local implementation in cooperation with James Fishkin and the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University.

Please extend a warm welcome to Project Coordinator Allison Rudi, who will be contacting a broad coalition of community partners and research organizations (including you) to advise, sponsor, conduct and benefit from this combined research and civic education project. This fall, we’ll be working on coalition-building, branding and design, fundraising, research design, project planning and budgeting, development of unbiased reading materials, recruitment of expert deliberative-democracy moderators, student involvement, and more.

Questions? Want to get in on the ground floor? Contact Allison by email or call CSR at 616 526-8934.

Posted by Neil Carlson on Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 10:33 AM
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Public and official opinion about cooperation and combination of local governments

Survey results released today show that a majority of survey respondents, both residents and elected officials of Kent County, Michigan, support sharing services such as police, fire and public works among governments, but there is no majority for sharing assessment of property values or tax collection. Majorities support informal cooperation, formal contracts and combining agencies, but a supermajority of responding elected officials and a near-majority of responding residents oppose merging governments into larger units.

Jim Penning’s legacy of research in public service

Not long before he passed away in 2010, then-director of CSR Dr. Jim Penning was inspired and agitated by an article in the Grand Rapids Press (now lost to memory). An experienced commissioner of the City of Kentwood, Dr. Penning began working with me to design a survey about local government cooperation and consolidation. We met with our friends at the Community Research Institute (CRI) at Grand Valley State University (GVSU), and they agreed to adapt our design for inclusion in an upcoming version of the Greater Grand Rapids Community Survey.

This morning, I had the privilege of bringing Jim’s work to fruition by pinch-hitting for CRI staff in presenting recent survey results to the board of the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council. GVMC is an august gathering of mayors and other local officials from Kent County and several other West Michigan counties. An important vehicle for cooperation among local governments, GVMC co-sponsored the survey project, with grant funding from the Frey Foundation. GVMC provided a list of elected officials for a mail survey parallel to GGRCS. Today’s presentation juxtaposed these two surveys to compare the opinions of residents and elected officials. The event was covered by Calvin grad Matt Vande Bunte of the Grand Rapids Press.

Survey results

Readers may be interested in versions of the presentation with notes or as full size slides, along with a two-page handout summarizing the findings.

Here are two key charts from the end of the presentation that summarize the findings.

Support for sharing various services

Chart of survey results on sharing services

Degrees of intergovernmental cooperation and consolidation

Chart of survey results on degrees of cooperation

Posted by Neil Carlson on Thursday, September 06, 2012 at 08:44 PM
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Social Sciences Lunch Seminar Series Spring 2012

The Social Sciences Lunch Seminar Series resumes for the spring semester 2012, highlighting four faculty speakers who will present and discuss their research.

Friday February 17: Jennifer Jewett VanAntwerp, Associate Professor of Engineering: "Examining Calling as a Motivator in Career Decisions: A Comparison of Engineering Graduates from Secular and Christian Undergraduate Institutions"

Friday March 9: Mikael Pelz, Assistant Professor of Political Science: "Presidential Campaign Rhetoric and Partisan Change: The Case of Evangelical Protestants"

Friday April 13: Neil Carlson, Director, Center for Social Research: "Social Science on the Front Lines: Collecting, analyzing and visualizing survey and casework data from the Believe 2 Become Initiatives's Neighborhood Engagement efforts"

Friday April 27: Adel Abadeer, Professor of Economics: "How Informal Norms Marginalize Women in Collective Societies in Less Developed Countries"

All of the 2011-12 seminars take place at Calvin College, in the Alumni Association Board Room, 12:30 p.m. with lunch tickets free and available starting at 12:15 p.m.

Please join us for lunch, research, and discussion.

Sponsored by the Center for Social Research, the Dean for Social Sciences and Contextual Studies, and the Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Christian Perspectives on Political, Social and Economic Thought.

Posted by Kathryn A. Bardolph on Friday, January 06, 2012 at 03:58 PM
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Explanations for Church Mobilization against AIDS in Africa

Despite local, national, and global attention to AIDS in Africa, an estimated 1.4 million Africans died of the disease in 2008, the same number as in 2001. As central institutions in many African societies, churches have responded to AIDS in various ways, from ignoring the disease, to providing care for the sick, to demanding state responses.

Using data from news articles and interviews with AIDS activists, church leaders, AIDS policymakers, and donor officials in Zambia, Kenya, the United States, and Ghana conducted between 2007 and 2010, Professor Amy Patterson, Political Science, presents an analysis of these church AIDS activities in Africa. She argues that church organizational structures, pastoral leadership, and the opportunities provided by globalization and the continent’s presumed “dependence” on the West shape African church mobilization on AIDS.

Please join CSR for Dr. Patterson's presentation and the ensuing discussion.

  Thursday October 7, 2010
3:30 p.m., Meeter Center Lecture Hall
Calvin College
Refreshments provided
Posted by Kathryn A. Bardolph on Monday, September 13, 2010 at 11:00 AM
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How big is government? Visualizing U.S. government expenses

Click to enlarge image

Given the pending $940 billion health care reform bill in the U.S. Congress, along with the $787 billion economic stimulus bill enacted in 2009, there is a lot of public controversy about the scope of public spending in the U.S. Just how unusual is the Obama administration's spending, and why? As shown in the static image above, it is clear that the Obama administration's 2009 spending dwarfs prior years and reaches for a 48-year maximum near 35% of non-government GDP before offsets. But this fact is not alone--it also represents the summation of trends long in the making. Whatever you think, the interactive visualization below may help to put the spending surge in its proper context. For example, before 2009 the record holder appears to have been the Reagan Administration in 1983, with nearly 30% of non-governmental GDP before offsets. Recessions take a toll on the economy that drives up the government's share.

At CSR, we are learning to use a powerful new tool called Tableau, a data visualization and analysis application that is evolving from origins in business intelligence. With the recent release of version 5.1, Tableau now includes Tableau Public, a free service that allows anyone to create and post interactive visualizations like the one below. Tableau is sponsoring a contest through March 26, and our interactive entry is below--please read on.


Posted by Neil Carlson on Sunday, March 21, 2010 at 10:21 PM
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