About Us

OpinionWorks is a full-service research and strategy firm, founded in 2001.  Our home base is the Chesapeake Bay region, but our work has expanded to be national in scope. We are expert in conducting opinion studies for non-profits, public sector agencies, issue advocates, and the news media.  Our specialty is understanding audience motivations, identifying their barriers to action, and testing messages and techniques to overcome those barriers and bring about engagement and change. 

These are some recent examples of our work:

►    Focus groups in Spanish and English for the District of Columbia Department of the Environment, which is the local regulator of lead exposure, conducted among parents of children under age 2 to understand why they had not had their children tested for lead as required by law, and how DDOE could encourage better compliance among parents.

   Focus groups among Medicaid-eligible new and expecting mothers in six communities across West Virginia, including some very rural communities in the south and southwestern parts of the state.  This work, conducted for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, was aimed at improving the way DHHR communicates and positions its Right From The Start program, which provides free services for low-income mothers to help them have a healthy pregnancy and first year, but was not reaching a large share of eligible mothers. 

►     A representative statewide survey of Ohioans for the Inter-University Council of Ohio, which is the consortium of the state's public universities, to determine the public's attitudes and capacity for supporting public higher education institutions through the state budget.

►       Working with Spectrum Science Communications, focus groups in Denver and Philadelphia among urban residents of color for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, to explore the messages and images that would persuade this audience to visit a National Wildlife Refuge.                                 

►    A series of focus groups for the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative and the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange among unenrolled eligible adults to understand barriers to enrollment under the Affordable Care Act and ways the Exchange and non-profit advocates could reach out more effectively. 

►    Focus groups among teens in English and Spanish for the Anne Arundel County (Maryland) Department of Health to understand teen attitudes and information consumption on the topics of sexual health, tobacco usage, physical activity, and healthy eating.

►      An extensive, year-long field research project examining consumption and sharing of contaminated fish from Anacostia River waters, and how anglers can be persuaded to throw back what they catch, rather than consuming and sharing it.  This project, funded by the EPA, NOAA, and Chesapeake Bay Trust, identifies a complex problem and makes clear recommendations for future outreach, through deep field interviews of fishermen in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese along the banks of the river, and a focus group to test messages and outreach techniques.

►       In 2012 and again in 2014, a 2,000-interview bilingual health study for a coalition of partners led by the Horizon Foundation and including Johns Hopkins Medicine, measuring health risks and behaviors, with a survey instrument and methodology modeled after the Centers for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey.

►       Working with FingerPaint Marketing, focus groups and key informant interviews among key internal and external audiences for SUNY Empire State College, to help this member of the State University of New York system understand its current brand, and identify the most compelling updated brand position with integrity for them in the rapidly-evolving higher education marketplace.

  ►       With our partner Water Words That Work, a Joyce Foundation-funded project in Chicago for Prairie Rivers Network and the Alliance for the Great Lakes to examine public and stakeholder opinion and develop messages around a proposal to create a permanent hydrological separation of the Mississippi and Great Lakes basins, in order to address the problem of aquatic invasive species.

►       An innovative project at the intersection of religious faith and climate change, conducted for Lutheran World Relief, an international relief and development NGO.  Through focus groups in Minneapolis and Fort Wayne, Indiana, among LWR constituents, we examined the language and attitudes that animate discussion on this topic across the spectrum of science and belief, producing work that was later presented at the conference of the American Evaluation Association.

►       The Chesapeake Bay Trust has frequently funded our work because they believe our approach fits with their social behavior change model, as we help the Trust and their grantees move people to adopt socially-desirable stewardship actions to help clean up local waters.

  ►       For the Utah Courts System, a statewide telephone survey in English and Spanish, measuring the public’s perception of the Courts, with particular focus on perceived barriers to Court access and confidence in fair outcomes.  This study informed the Courts’ strategic plan.

►       The Hamilton County (Ohio) Solid Waste Management District, seeking to raise their residential recycling rate by 3%, hired us to test the barriers to recycling, and develop an outreach plan.  Through five focus groups conducted in two rounds of testing and a baseline countywide telephone survey, we identified why residents are not recycling more.  Our test very specifically went beyond message testing to evaluate and develop an entire new suite of ads and printed outreach materials: Recycling: It's One Thing We Can All Do.

  ►       Through extensive focus group and psychological testing for the Alice Ferguson Foundation and a consortium of public sector funders, we examined the motivations for littering, and the messaging that will reach this audience and change their behavior.  Our research determined that a positive, empowering message was the best way to reach the audience of chronic litterers, and it has formed the basis for a regional public outreach campaign across Metropolitan Washington, D.C.

  Focus groups conducted for The Horizon Foundation in Spanish, Korean, and English on the sensitive topic of medical advance directives to help engender a community-wide campaign. 

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