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WAPOR’s Annual Conference 2012 in Hong Kong a Groundbreaker

Contributed by Robert Chung (Conference Chair)

In almost every respect, WAPOR’s 65th annual conference held in Hong Kong from June 14 to 16, 2012 was a groundbreaker. Final registration figures stand at 246 full participants coming from 37 different countries and regions, representing 137 different organizations. These figures do not include a dozen or so local guests, reporters, and partial participants, and two dozens or so student assistants, ambassadors, simultaneous interpreters, and camera crew members. In terms of presentation, 117 paper presentations from 32 different countries and regions have been made, plus 8 poster presentations, 6 special panels, 2 plenary sessions, and a parallel workshop on deliberative democracy with 28 participants. The extent of participation in the Hong Kong conference is confirmed to be of record high in the history of WAPOR.

As ancient Chinese cosmology goes, our universe began as a void, meaning absolutely nothing. Then there was chaos, then chaos was divided into two poles – the positive and the negative. Then came the four signs. Then people invented eight symbols to explain nature. Then people combined two sets of these symbols to produce the 64 hexagrams, which can presumably explain everything happening in this world. If one believes in this magic, then WAPOR’s 65th annual conference must have marked the beginning of a new cycle in the development of WAPOR.

As a matter of fact, since the establishment of WAPOR in 1947, we have adopted a 2-year cycle of annual conferencing, whereby our annual conferences are held in Europe and North America in alternate years. Thanks to the tremendous courage and visionary thinking of WAPOR’s leadership, we have now changed our tradition to a 3-year cycle. As Chairman of the Hong Kong Conference, I was entrusted with the responsibility to make this change a success, I am glad to report that my mission has been accomplished.

The theme of conference - The New World of Public Opinion Research – was set to echo this change. It emphasizes the impacts of new methodologies, new technologies, and new paradigms to the study of public opinion in this era of new media and new mentalities in many new parts of the world. At the opening plenary session, preliminary findings from a new round of worldwide survey on the freedom to publish opinion poll results was presented. It is the fifth study conducted by WAPOR since 1984, this time executed by the Public Opinion Programme at The University of Hong Kong. The first survey in 1984 covers 49 countries and regions, it becomes 55 in 1992, 78 in 1996, 66 in 2002 and 85 this time. Another record is set. The full report will be released before the end of this year.

At the conference, the Helen Dinerman Prize for lifetime achievement in public opinion research was presented in person to Dr Hans Mathias Kepplinger, professor emeritus at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, for his pioneering work on linking public opinion research with media content analysis. Firmly entrenched in the triangulation of theory, empirical measurement, and societal relevance, the research of Hans Mathias Kepplinger has been published in about 30 books and more than 300 articles. He has greatly enhanced our understanding of the dynamics of public opinion.

The Elizabeth H Nelson Prize for the best conference paper from a society in transition was awarded to Thomas Vitiello, Ali Çarkoğlu and Mert Moral for their paper "Voting Advice Applications in Practice: Answers to some Key Questions from Turkey", while the Naomi C Turner Prize for the best student paper was awarded to Yu Won Oh and Rebecca Yu for their paper "What We See Online: A Forerunner or Echo of the Traditional Media Messages?" The Robert M Worcester Prize for the best article in the International Journal of Public Opinion Research in 2011 was awarded in absentia to Alin Ceobanu, Charles Wood, and Ludmila Ribeiro for their article "Crime Victimization and Public support for Democracy: Evidence from Latin America".

This year, thanks to the sponsorship of the CVoter Foundation, two Outstanding Paper Presentation Awards are given to presenters of the papers "Issue Development in a Mediated Society: The Endogenous Relationship between Media and Publics on the Issue of European Integration", and "Patterns of Media Use, Conversation and Perceived Political Polarization in 10 Countries", while one Outstanding Poster Presentation Award is given to the presenter of the poster "The 1989 Chinese Student Movement as Signalized in Newsweek and Time: An Analysis of Symbols". These awards are made after the conference based on votes cast by conference attendees. The authors of these presentations are listed in our conference website at

The conference was held in the main campus of The University of Hong Kong, which has just celebrated its centenary. The Annual Award Banquet took place in the university’s Loke Yew Hall, where the "Father of the Chinese Nation" Sun Yat-sen (1866–1925), an alumnus of the university, made a historic speech after he overthrew the imperial monarchy. The venue, setting and theme of the entire conference reflects one spirit – that we are at the beginning of a new era, of breaking new grounds while preserving good old traditions. We are indeed creating our new world of public opinion research.

To mark this development, we have created a mobile application "WAPOR 2012" good for devices running on iOS and Android. Other than guiding attendees during the conference, the application also directs users to our conference website which now contains all conference papers, posters and powerpoint files we have received, plus about 2,000 photographs taken during the conference. A full list of conference participants with email addresses has been distributed via bulkmail, so that we can stay in touch and join hands to venture into the new world of public opinion research!

All these would not have been possible without the support of our co-organizers, namely, the Media and Public Opinion Research Center of Fudan University in Shanghai, and the Election Study Center of National Chengchi University in Taipei. We are also indebted to our supporting organizations, which include the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University in the US, the Macao Polling Research Association and ERS in Macau, the Korean Association for Survey Research in Korea, the CVoter Foundation in India, and the Chu Hai College of Higher Education in Hong Kong. Special thanks also goes to our sister organizations AAPOR and ISSC for holding special panels in this conference.

We are also grateful to the many sponsors of the conference, which include NORC at the University of Chicago, the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, the Nielsen Company, D3 Systems, and Savantas Policy Institute.

I would also like to express my own thanks to members of the Scientific Committee chaired by myself to review the conference abstracts and also made the paper awards. They include Sung Kyum Cho, Yashwant Deshmukh, Mahar Mangahas, Patricia Moy, Alejandro Moreno, Peter Neijens, Orlando Perez, Tom Smith, Ching-Hsin Yu, and Baohua Zhou.

Last but not least, I need to thank WAPOR’s Executive Coordinator Renae Reis for her support from the Secretariat, and my own colleagues at the Public Opinion Programme of The University of Hong Kong, working under our Conference Secretary Winnie Lee, for their very hard work before, during and after the conference.

Thank you everybody for making history with us together!