The Center for Survey Research at Penn State Harrisburg celebrates 30 years

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Since 1987, researchers in government, academia, business and the non-profit sector have turned to the Center for Survey Research (CSR) at Penn State Harrisburg for high-quality, cost-effective research. Now celebrating its 30th anniversary, the center continues to be a valuable data collection resource at Penn State, as well as throughout Pennsylvania, and nationwide.

“The Center for Survey research offers a full array of survey research services to fit the needs of a particular organization,” said Center Director Stephanie L. Wehnau. “Our experienced staff works closely with clients to offer flexible and individualized project planning. Each project is carefully and thoughtfully designed and conducted to ensure high-quality results.” 

Services the center provides include survey instrument design, surveys (phone, web, and mail), on-site intercepts, focus groups, one-on-one interviews, statistical analysis and reporting, as well as data visualizations.

“Our efforts have enabled clients to track public policy issues, inform decision-making and policy-making, assess knowledge of or opinions about specific topics, perform benchmarking, conduct academic research, and measure satisfaction with organizational services and performance,” said Wehnau. 

The center has helped spotlight the views of Pennsylvanians on a variety of issues. For example, surveys conducted through the center have revealed valuable data on unemployment in Pennsylvania, veteran’s affairs and services, crime and delinquency, police and community relations, public policy, patient experiences at Pennsylvania hospitals, and a host of other public issues.

In addition to individual, customized projects, CSR also runs the twice-annual Penn State Poll, a telephone survey of 600 adult Pennsylvanians. The poll is designed to allow organizations with statewide interests to contribute customized questions to the survey while sharing fixed survey costs with other sponsoring organizations. The result is an extremely cost-effective way to poll statewide in Pennsylvania, because sponsors pay for only the questions that they submit. 

Sponsors of past Penn State Polls have used the results of the survey to track public policy issues; measure general attitudes, awareness and knowledge of their organizations; and measure satisfaction with organizational services and performance.

Through the Penn State Poll, the college’s School of Public Affairs conducted a 2016 pre-presidential election poll on a variety of topics, including criminal justice, homeland security, health administration, public policy and administration, and immigration.

Jennifer Gibbs, assistant professor of criminal justice in Penn State Harrisburg’s School of Public Affairs has worked closely with the center, recently sponsoring several questions on police legitimacy as part of the poll. Download her research brief here.

“The Penn State Harrisburg Center for Survey Research is instrumental to my research on Pennsylvanians' opinions on several policing-related issues,” Gibbs said.  “Their regular survey of a sample of citizens helps us learn more about what Pennsylvanians are thinking.  I collected data on how Pennsylvanians defined 'police legitimacy.' We're currently working together to assess attitudes toward police body-worn cameras.”

The CSR is a unit within the Institute of State and Regional Affairs (ISRA) at Penn State Harrisburg. ISRA has been conducting social, economic, political and environmental research for over 40 years. Other related units housed under the ISRA umbrella include the Pennsylvania State Data Center, the Economic Development Research and Training Center, and the Integrated Technology Center. Many of CSR's project activities benefit from collaborative interaction between these related centers.

“The institute supports a culture of collaboration — whether it brings on faculty experts, works with an advisory group, or simply puts together the best institute staff for the project,” said Wehnau. "Our center is strong on its own, but I think we really bring something special to the table when we collaborate with the other units within the Institute. Our clients benefit from having access to a diverse set of skills in one place. We really are a one-stop shop for any data-related need.” 

Wehnau added that the center makes the most difference when assisting organizations with needs assessment. They recently completed a needs assessment for the United Way of Lebanon County, with the goal of understanding the demographic makeup of the community as well as the needs, unmet needs, utilization of services, and barriers to receiving services for those living in Lebanon County.

The center also conducted a needs assessment on Pennsylvania's victim community for the Office of Victims' Services of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to learn about unmet needs, existing services and community assets, service gaps and under-served crime-victim populations, and to identify best practices. 

For more information, contact Stephanie L. Wehnau at 717-948-6429 or [email protected].