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Revista Interamericana de Bibliografía (RIB)
Número: 1-4
Título: 1997
Sección: Artículos / Articles

Attitudinal Data

The United States Information Agency (USIA) is an independent, executive branch agency responsible for the U.S. Government’s overseas information and cultural programs and a wide variety of communications activities, including radio and TV broadcasts, publications, libraries, and seminars. In particular, the USIA conducts these programs with the intent of strengthening the foreign understanding of U.S. policies and U.S. society (National Archives, 1992c). One means of measuring the effectiveness of USIA programs is through public opinion surveys.

The National Archives has custody of over 1,000 public opinion surveys taken on behalf of the USIA from the mid-1950’s through the late 1980’s. The bulk of the studies in the Center’s custody were conducted between 1973 and 1989; some earlier USIA poll data are available from the Roper Center, University of Connecticut, and the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). International public opinion surveys taken on behalf of the USIA are known as the USIA World Wide Surveys. Many surveys have been conducted in Latin America and include: Radio, Continuing Audience Analysis Programs; Attitude Surveys of Foreign Perceptions of International Strength and Security; and Attitude Surveys of National Concerns and Problems.

For example, the USIA contracted with Gallup Argentina to conduct a youth attitude survey in Argentina during October and November 1985 (USIA Study I85110). Similar studies were also conducted in Austria (Study I85014) and Brazil (Study I85114). Data were collected from Argentine youths, ages 16-24, and their elders (1,507 cases total) to compare their values and attitudes on topics such as foreign affairs, Argentine society, economic outlook, personal values, and the role of the younger generation. Over 40 percent of the respondents were youths (634 cases). For example, summary statistics in the documentation indicate that approximately two-thirds of Argentine adults and youths similarly agreed that “without a democratically elected government, it is not likely that a country’s social problems can be solved.” It is unclear whether more methodologically sophisticated analyses were conducted on these data, beyond summary statistics.

Another series of attitudinal surveys, and related to Latin America, is “The American Soldier in World War II;”  a series of 84 studies (275 data files; 137 are documentation data files and 138 raw data) conducted on U.S. Army personnel during the war by the Army Research Branch (ARB) of the Army Services Forces.

These records represent one of the first attempts to collect and analyze data on public opinion and to conduct statistical analyses on the attitudes of soldiers, recruits, and combat veterans. These data were originally compiled by the ARB on punched cards during the 1940’s. Samuel Stouffer of the Social Science Research Council (formerly of the ARB) copied all unclassified data and used them for further studies (see Stouffer et al. (1949)). Eventually a duplicate set of the unclassified punched cards was transferred to the Roper Center and, in 1978, the punched cards were read to magnetic tape. A copy was then transferred to the National Archives on behalf of the Army Research Institute, the successor agency to the ARB. Records in the National Archives related to these surveys are further described in DeWhitt and Ziemer (1991).

One of the 84 studies concerns the attitudes of U.S. Army personnel stationed in Panama. The “Panama Canal Department: Cross-Section Omnibus Survey (AMS-115),” conducted between January and February 1944 on 4,022 subjects, consists of six data files (3 documentation, 3 raw data). This study was used to predict the types of men most likely to have attitudes that might lead to friction between Continental U.S. and Insular (Puerto Rican) troops. In addition to questions asked of both groups, the Continental men were explicitly asked how they felt about the Puerto Rican replacement policy and their assignment in the Caribbean. The Insular men were specifically asked about attitudes toward the Continental men, interest in studying English, and preferences for Continental or Insular officers.

Therefore, attitudinal data related to Latin America in the National Archives have the potential of providing social scientists with important benchmarks for their research. For example, social geographers proposing to do research on attitudes of Latin Americans should be aware of the variety of studies conducted by these agencies and the results obtained by their varied research projects.