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2023 Warren J. Mitofsky Award Winner Diane Colasanto

The Board of Directors of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell University is pleased to announce Diane Colasanto as the recipient of the 2023 Warren J. Mitofsky Award for Excellence in Public Opinion Research. This award recognized Diane’s lasting influence on the fields of public opinion and survey research through her institution building, leadership, methodological expertise, and longtime use of and her extraordinary support of the Roper Center.

Diane’s connection to public opinion research began as a college student at Trinity College in the early 1970s, where she accessed Roper Center data, then housed at Williams College, spending time rifling through surveys as a part of her work in a sociology lab. 

Diane went on to get her PhD in Sociology from University of Michigan and then helped start one of the first survey research programs in the country at University of Wisconsin - Madison. In the 1980s, Diane joined the Gallup Organization as their Chief Methodologist, later rising to the role of Senior Vice President. Colasanto went on to help found Princeton Survey Research Associates, a leading survey research organization at the time. 

Diane has been a leader in the survey research community for decades, first as AAPOR president in 1996-1997 and then in multiple roles on the executive committee. In her AAPOR presidential address, Diane pushed the organization to play a more active role in speaking out, rather than through individual members, on issues of data quality and the use of public opinion research in debates about policy and legislation. She laid out a plan for AAPOR to systematically monitor the use of public opinion research in debates about national public policy and legislation; collect information about the methodology used in this public opinion research and track it over time; and take action to stop the use of undocumented research in debates on public issues. Many of today’s practices, from how AAPOR has responded publicly to attacks on election polling to the transparency initiative, can be traced back to Diane’s efforts. 

Diane’s connection to the Roper Center has deepened since she was a student at Trinity College. She is a long-time friend of the Roper Center, serving on the Roper Center Board of Directors from 2005 to 2019, including as board chair from 2009 to 2011. One of Diane’s many contributions on the Roper Board was initiating the Kohut Fellowships in honor of her late husband Andrew Kohut. Since 2017, when the Fellowship began, the program has provided twenty young people with the opportunity to gain professional experience as they delve deeply into the archive and public opinion research. In 2021, Diane, who was always thinking of ways to improve the Fellowship program, offered to meet with the students virtually to discuss her professional experiences as well as Andy Kohut’s experiences at Gallup, Pew Research Center, and PSRA. This lively first conversation led to an enhancement of the program with a series of guest discussants from across the world of survey research, providing the Kohut Fellows with a unique opportunity to engage with and connect to leaders in their field.