Public Agenda Online is a free, Web-based public information service managed by Public Agenda, a non-profit, non-partisan organization. Public Agenda was founded in 1975 by former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and social scientist and author Daniel Yankelovich, and its mission is to provide balanced information on key public issues. Public Agenda gathers public opinion data from a wide variety of sources including surveys conducted by most major opinion research organizations. In some areas, Public Agenda has conducted extensive research itself. Public Agenda then prepares reports and studies and offers the data via several venues on its Web site. The web site highlights key public issues and hot topics, and also offers information about the parent organization, its staff, newsletter, and sponsored programs and workshops.
A column down the left-hand side of the homepage offers links to different sections of the site. "The Issues" includes twenty-one topics ranging from the Economy and the Environment to Medical Research and Social Security. Each issue is divided into two sections: Understanding the Issue (provides factual information on each issue) and Public Opinion (offers data gathered from a variety of opinion research organizations). This area of the site offers a wide range of data and commentary on each given issue, including polling data, selections from current newspapers and magazines, and brief position statements on an aspect of that issue.
Also on the homepage, "In the Headlines" looks at current news items. Other links from the homepage include "About Polling," which gives an overview of the polling process and opinion research, a good site map, and a keyword searching option. One can also view summaries of in-depth Public Agenda Research Studies. These reports range from 30-60 pages, and the most current published report is available at no charge for a limited time (in PDF format) to registered users; previously published reports are available in print only for a fee.
The audience for Public Agenda Online is wide-ranging: from researchers and policy-makers to concerned citizens and activists. For an academic audience, this site serves as a starting point for students exploring a topic who want to understand how the public weighs in on key issues. Other sources offer polling data (such as pollingreport.com or the Gallup Poll in print or online), but Public Agenda Online combines statistics and commentary in an organized, easy-to-understand format. -
Caroline L. Gilson