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New Project Probes Americans' Values

6/30/2008 --

With the fall elections drawing near, the Ross School's Wayne Baker has created a Web site to probe the values behind Americans' political decisions.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—A new Web site, www.OurValues.org, will provide visitors with a chance to weigh in on a changing array of hot-button issues from polygamy to patriotism to same-sex marriage.

Public comments and responses to "flash poll" questions on the site will inform the content of a major survey on Americans' Evolving Values, to be fielded by the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research (ISR).

"I am very enthusiastic about this Web site," said Wayne Baker (pictured at left), a professor at the U-M Ross School of Business and a faculty associate at ISR. "Not only will it help to define the content of the coming survey, it represents a new, 'open source' approach to research that is based on 'the wisdom of crowds' rather than only the insights of a small group of academics."

Baker, a sociologist, is developing the content and leading the discussions on the new Web site, which offers visitors a chance to comment on the topic of the day, or on other issues on their minds. For the coming, nationally representative survey on Americans' Evolving Values, Baker is collaborating with social psychologist James S. Jackson, who directs the ISR.

"We live in a time when there is more debate than ever about what being an American means," Jackson said. "As we move forward, it is vital to understand the underlying values and principles that Americans of all ages and backgrounds share. An important goal of this larger project is to clarify how basic values are linked with political, economic, and religious behavior."

Baker has developed the OurValues Web site in collaboration with David Crumm, founding editor of ReadtheSpirit.com and former religion writer for the Detroit Free Press.

"The recent controversies about the spiritual advisers to both presidential candidates have receded, but religious and moral values remain an important dimension underlying many contemporary political issues," Crumm said. "Dr. Baker's project is a new way for concerned Americans to let leaders know what they value, and why."

Written by Diane Swanbrow

For more information, contact:
Bernie DeGroat, (734) 936-1015 or 647-1847, bernied@umich.edu