Detroit Area Study to focus on assisted suicide

October 30, 1998

ANN ARBOR—University of Michigan researchers will be asking Detroit area residents what they think, feel, and believe about life-and-death decisions as part of a yearly study conducted by U-M faculty and students for nearly half a century. An annual survey of households and businesses in the three-county Detroit metropolitan area, the study serves as both a faculty research project and hands-on vehicle for students learning state-of-the-art survey methods.

The Detroit Area Study (DAS) is jointly sponsored by the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the U-M Department of Sociology, and the Survey Research Center in the U-M Institute for Social Research.

“Over the past three decades, decisions about limiting life-saving treatment and physician-assisted suicide, once made privately by doctors and patients, have increasingly been the center of professional debates, legal battles, and public controversies,” says Renee Anspach, professor of sociology and this year’s DAS faculty investigator.

“Karen Ann Quinlan, Nancy Cruzan, Baby Doe, and Dr. Jack Kevorkian all represent critical moments in a growing national debate. While we already know much about the views of ethicists, legal analysts, and other commentators, we still have much to learn about the views of ordinary people who already encounter the problem.”

Every year, the topic of the study changes, according to DAS director Willard L. Rodgers, a senior research scientist at ISR. In the 1999-2000 study, U-M faculty investigators Vincent Hutchings, Michael Traugott, and Nicholas Valentino will lead student researchers in examining the impact of political campaigns on how citizens learn about and evaluate candidates. In addition to standard survey contact, the researchers will bring video segments into the respondents’ homes through the use of laptop computers.

“Hundreds of political advertisements sponsored by candidates, parties, and interest groups will expose voters to many competing political messages,” says Traugott. “This study will help us find out whether any of it matters on election day.”

The Detroit Area Study serves the double purpose of providing U-M students with a working knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of scientific survey methods, and of providing faculty investigators what amounts to, in effect, a moderate-size research grant, along with substantial administrative and technical support from the DAS staff. Over the past 45 years, the DAS has provided data that have been the basis for some 20 scholarly books and nearly 400 journal articles.


U-M News and Information Services University of Michigan

Literature, Science, and the ArtsVincent HutchingsU-M News and Information ServicesUniversity of Michigan