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Obituaries for August 2017

1 August 2017 74 views No Comment

Eleanor Singer

Submitted by Roger Tourangeau, AAPOR Past President

    Eleanor Singer

    Eleanor Singer died on June 3, 2017. She was 87.

    She was a research professor emerita at the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center, which is part of its Institute for Social Research (ISR). She had a long and distinguished career at the University of Michigan and Columbia University.

    Eleanor was very active in the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), serving as president from 1987–1988, as well as conference chair, standards chair, and counselor-at-large. In 1996, she received the AAPOR Award for Lifetime Achievement.

    “Eleanor was a major figure in the field of survey methodology, and she will be greatly missed by all who knew her,” said ISR Director David Lam. “We are fortunate that she spent the last decades of her illustrious career at ISR, where she made major contributions to research, training, and the intellectual life of the Institute.” Eleanor joined ISR in 1994.

    Among her many accomplishments was her 10-year tenure as editor of Public Opinion Quarterly (POQ), in which she elevated survey methodology as an academic discipline, according to University of Michigan political scientist and past AAPOR president Michael Traugott. “Eleanor was editor of Public Opinion Quarterly at a time when survey research and public opinion research became established in the university setting,” said Traugott. “By her selection of content and manuscripts, she—in a very important but subtle way—promoted and encouraged the study of academic survey methods. …”

    Stanley Presser, another past president of AAPOR who also edited POQ, had this to say about Eleanor: “For nearly half a century, Eleanor Singer had a profound influence on both AAPOR (no one comes close to her tenure as POQ editor) and research on public opinion and survey methods more generally. She worked on big problems in rigorous and imaginative ways and found joy in doing so—joy that she shared with 74 co-authors. She leaves us a rich legacy.”

    According to another past AAPOR president, Bob Groves, “Eleanor was one of those productive scientists who was also an incredible magnet for collaboration. She ended up collaborating with half of the people in the building and was known as a wonderful mentor and exquisite writer. Whenever I would get back articles I submitted to her that she had rewritten, I realized she made my pieces better. As a collaborator, you would discover that again and again.”

    In 2016, Eleanor received the Monroe G. Sirken Award in Interdisciplinary Survey Methods Research for “significant contributions in our understanding of survey participation, sources of nonresponse bias, and factors affecting survey responses; for pioneering research on the use and effects of incentives; and for leadership in developing awareness and understanding of ethical issues in survey research.” Her work continues to play an important role in the study of survey methodology.

    Singer was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1930. When she was 8 years old, her family fled the rise of Nazi Germany in Europe and settled in Astoria, New York. She completed a BA in English at Queens College in 1951, where she met her late husband, Alan Singer. In her early career, Singer worked as a book editor at various publishing houses and increasingly specialized in books about social science. She remained a superb editor throughout her career.

    In 1959, Eleanor decided to pursue graduate school at Columbia University. She earned a PhD in sociology in 1966. There, she met and worked with illustrious mentors, including Paul Lazarsfeld and Robert Merton, and her dissertation sponsor, Herbert H. Hyman, who introduced her to public opinion research and survey methodology. She went on to conduct research at Columbia University, The University of Chicago, and the U.S. Census Bureau.

    In 2011, Eleanor, along with five co-authors of the textbook Survey Methodology, donated an estimated $60,000 in royalties to benefit graduate student education and research in survey methodology at ISR.

    Eleanor touched my own career in a number of ways. She was the editor of POQ, which accepted my first methodological paper. We went on to collaborate on six papers and a book. I agree with Bob Groves that she was a superb writer and with Stanley Presser that no one came close to her as an editor. Bad prose went in and good prose came out.

    Eleanor described herself as a contrarian, and I can attest that she could sometimes be prickly, but this quality made her abundant warmth and kindness all the sweeter. I’m one of the many people who will miss her sorely.

    Eleanor is survived by her children, Emily and Lawrence, and her grandchildren. Memorial donations can be made to the American Civil Liberties Union, the Survey Research Center’s Junior Faculty Fund at the UM Institute for Social Research, or the UM Cancer Center.

    ISR has a more detailed obituary (from which I borrowed liberally).

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