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The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study

The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) is The Partnership at Drugfree.org's unique contribution to the field of substance abuse prevention. An annual study that tracks the elaborate and complex attitudes consumers have about illicit drug and alcohol use, this research allows us to understand what our target audiences think and feel about various forms of substance abuse. This consumer-focused, consumer-based research is the largest drug-related attitudinal tracking study in the country. No other organization in the country - commercial, non-profit or governmental - has the rich insights into consumers and substance abuse that PATS has captured since 1987.  The learning gleaned from this study guides The Partnership at Drugfree.org in developing strategic communication to help parents prevent, intervene in and find treatment for drug and alcohol use by their children.

Research shows that attitudes drive behavior. According to the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future study, two critical drug-related attitudes - perception of risk (how risky consumers view a particular drug) and perception of social disapproval (consumer appeal and acceptance of a particular drug) - move in correlation with consumption. Generally speaking, as consumers come to view drug use as more risky and increasingly disapprove of drugs, consumption declines. Similarly, the opposite holds true.

Different consumers come to view different drugs in different ways.  As children pass through childhood into adolescence, for example, their attitudes about drugs and alcohol - marijuana, cocaine, inhalants, heroin, etc. - change constantly. In addition, teens view trial use of drugs very differently than they view regular drug use.  In developing messages that speak effectively and persuasively to our target audiences about the health risks of substance abuse, we must first understand their mindset and their attitudes about drug and alcohol use. The more we do - and the more our messages acknowledge this reality - the more effective the messages will be.

PATS consists of two nationally projectable samples - a teen sample for students in grades 7-12, and a parent sample. Prior to 1993, these studies were conducted by interviews in public locations. Since the 1993 study, PATS has been conducted in schools and in homes. Beginning with the 1995 study, the in-home study was conducted with parents of children under the age of 19, and data from that sample are projected accordingly. Since 1993, the Roper Public Affairs Division of GfK Custom Research (formerly Roper ASW, Inc.), a leading market research company, has conducted the PATS studies for The Partnership at Drugfree.org. PATS is funded, in part, by an organizational grant from MetLife Foundation.

The Roper Public Affairs Division of GfK Custom Research developed the questionnaires for the Partnership Attitude Tracking Study in cooperation with The Partnership at Drugfree.org. Survey instruments were based on past PATS questionnaires, with modifications designed to cover new areas of interest, to improve the sensitivity of the existing questions and to produce data that could be directly compared with other existing research.

PATS is based on self-reported data. Surveys based on self-reported data collection represent the dominant methodology used in the marketplace. Many academic/government institutions use self-reporting data when researching sensitive issues, i.e., Centers for Disease Control (Youth-At-Risk), University of Michigan (Monitoring the Future study), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (National Household Survey on Drug Use).


The Partnership for a Drug-Free America

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