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Roper Center launches Japanese polling database
December 7, 1998

How do people in Japan see their country's business climate? What do they think of diet supplements.

A survey by the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun showed that, even in 1993, 50 percent of people in Japan said their country's business climate was bad. And 36 percent of Japanese people say they supplement their diet with vitamin tablets, according to a 1997 Yomiuri Shimbun survey.

In the past six years, the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research has collected public opinion data on these and many other topics from Japan. With support from the Center for Global Partnership and the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, the Roper Center has developed a Web-accessible database of Japanese public opinion, the first on-line collection of Japanese survey data.

"The U.S. has close economic ties to Japan," says David Wilber, the center's assistant director, "but Americans know little about Japanese culture and society. The database will begin to address this shortcoming by providing a tool that can be used for examining public thinking in Japan," he says.

The Japan Public Opinion Location Library (JPOLL) contains 10,000 individual survey questions, the answers to the questions, the dates the surveys were conducted, how they were conducted and the specific surveys themselves from six major survey research organizations in Japan.

JPOLL allows anyone with a modern Web browser the opportunity to examine social, economic and political issues in Japan, says Rich Clark, JPOLL's project manager.

Once the center began developing a special library collection from Japan it became apparent that traditional methods of gaining access to this data were insufficient, says Wilber. "Requiring the outside community to call us and request a certain study, and having Center staff identify and send that study to the user is inefficient and not the way information is delivered today."

Wilber says the best way to allow people to access the data is electronically.

Going to the Center's website, clicking on the JPOLL data bank, and typing in a word search brings the user a list of survey questions and answers in English.

"We translated the survey questions and answers so that people who do not read Japanese but are interested in studying Japan's society can more easily evaluate the survey data," Wilber says.

It was, and still is, difficult to translate from Japanese to English, Wilber says. In order to ensure the translation is accurate, the Center hired Tatsuo Yamamoto '94, a native of Japan who has served as an interpreter for several Japanese corporations.

Yamamoto developed a special translating tool, a database program using the Japanese characters and the English translation. "It serves as a check," Wilber says. "Any time we have a new question to be translated, we can type the first few characters into the search engine and it will give us the English translation, if it already exists.

Wilber adds that Yamamoto has also been vital in explaining to the survey research community in Japan the value of archiving their surveys in a public data library, like the Roper Center. "Historically, survey organizations in Japan have been reluctant to release data for public evaluation because they are concerned that outside organizations might misuse it," he says.

The Center's international reputation as the world's largest public opinion archive has helped in our efforts to establish the database, Wilber says.

Eight thousand to 10,000 questions will be translated and added to JPOLL, thanks to a $150,000 grant from the U.S.-Japan Foundation. The grant will also help the Center market JPOLL to a variety.

Luis Mocete