Wolfgang Donsbach (1949-2015)

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[vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”2955″ border_color=”grey” img_link_large=”yes” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”600×404″ css=”.vc_custom_1439488281491{padding-top: 15px !important;}”][vc_column_text]The following email was sent to members of WAPOR on 27 July 2015:

Dear WAPOR friends and colleagues:

I write today with very sad news: Wolfgang Donsbach, former WAPOR president (1996-97), passed away yesterday, 26 July 2015. He was 65.

A colleague of unflagging energy, Wolfgang worked tirelessly on behalf of WAPOR. His legacy includes the elevated reputation of public opinion research around the globe. In a report titled “Who’s Afraid of Election Polls?“, Wolfgang articulated the normative and empirical arguments for the freedom of preelection polls. He also played a key role in setting up our ongoing worldwide study on the freedom to publish opinion polls. And he spearheaded WAPOR’s thematic seminars dealing with Quality Criteria in Survey Research.

Another clear legacy of Wolfgang’s efforts can be found in the pages of WAPOR’s flagship journal, the International Journal of Public Opinion Research, with which he was involved for over a quarter-century — first as manager of the editorial office, then managing editor, then editor, and finally as chair of its International Advisory Board. Today IJPOR is an ISI-ranked journal deemed the “one classic mass communication journal” that, true to its name, “could be classified as international.”

Wolfgang’s efforts to facilitate high-quality research in public opinion and related fields are reflected in other undertakings. In 2008, he co-edited with Michael Traugott “The SAGE Handbook of Public Opinion Research,” which brought together state-of-the-art reviews of public opinion theory and methodology. In over 50 chapters, contributors from a dozen countries spoke to the history and philosophy of public opinion and public opinion research; the development of public opinion research; theories of public opinion formation and change; methodological concerns such as design and measurement; and the application, such as marketing research, voter research in campaigns, and the use of surveys as legal evidence. The transnational lens with which this volume was crafted speaks to the potential opportunities and challenges facing public opinion research in different parts of the world. It is no surprise then that a British Politics review of the handbook called it “admirable and expansive” and “a substantial resource.”

Also in 2008, working with Wiley-Blackwell and the International Communication Association, Wolfgang launched the “International Encyclopedia of Communication,” a 12-volume collection of over 1300 entries defining key concepts, theories, and concerns in the field. In his introduction to the encyclopedia, Wolfgang cited as an overarching goal the creation of a product that represented the plurality of the communication discipline. Crafting this product involved efforts by over

4,000 contributors in nearly 70 countries, representing different epistemologies and methodological approaches in “this fascinating and socially crucial field of communication.”

Wolfgang’s deep commitment to our field – and its social and political significance – is best-reflected in his presidential address for the International Communication Association. In that 2005 address, he noted how “empirical research without normative goals can easily become arbitrary, random, and irrelevant… A common denominator of all endeavors in communication research could be to strive for research that has the potential to serve such general human and democratic values and norms, that is, ‘research in the public interest.'”

Having published 18 books and over 200 articles and book chapters, Wolfgang Donsbach was widely read and highly cited for his research on public opinion, media effects, political communication, and journalism.

His passing will be felt in multiple communities: at the Dresden University of Technology, where he was a professor of communication; in WAPOR and the numerous other professional associations with which he was actively engaged; and certainly, in the fields of public opinion and communication.

WAPOR extends its deepest condolences to his wife Eva and his son Thomas.

With best wishes,

Patricia Moy
President, WAPOR[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_separator color=”grey” align=”align_center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”” parallax=”” parallax_image=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Following the announcement above, many of Wolf’s colleagues and friends honored his memory with heartfelt sentiments of him on the WAPOR listserv. If you would like to contribute something to these, please send your remarks to renae@wapor.org for publication on this page.

Wolfgang was an inspiration, a profound intellectual and a wonderful friend. We will miss him.
– Marta Lagos

I followed the WAPOR presidency after him and I always enjoyed his advice and friendship very much. He was always spirited, optimistic, positive, laughing at the slightest occasion and enjoying every possible moment. We will miss him very much.
– Prof. Miguel E. Basáñez

We’ll miss Wolfgang deeply. Such an inspiring and dear friend.
– Marita Carballo

I am deeply saddened and shocked by this news.  Wolf was a wonderful colleague and friend, and he contributed so much to our field.  He was so energetic and the picture of good health.  This is a great loss to all of us.
– Dave Weaver

I am completely shocked and saddened by this news.  I first met Wolfgang thirty years ago when I arrived as a von Humboldt Fellow at the University of Mainz.  From the first, he was a great friend and colleague, and he helped me on several projects.  He was someone with a great sense of humor who adored his son.  I will certainly miss him.
– Frank Rusciano

Wonderfully sharp, insightful, energetic, witty and generous.
– Robert Eisinger

He brought more intellectual rigour to our profession than any other person I’ve known. A sad loss.
– Nick Moon

Wolf came to mind yesterday for no reason I knew. He was a fine example of dedication to the profession … always warm and willing to share thoughts at WAPOR conferences long past. Thank you for the notification. A sad day for so many. He leaves a legacy which we should celebrate and toast with joy that his contributions will not fade from our memories.
– Cricket Cohen

He will be deeply missed, as a scientist and as a person. He was a wonderful man!
– Edith de Leeuw

I am shocked and saddened by this loss. I didn’t know Wolfgang well but enjoyed seeing him at WAPOR meetings. He was always friendly, down-to-earth and had a delightful sense of humor. This is a terrible loss for his family, colleagues, our association and the wider field of survey research. May he rest in peace.
– Orlando Pérez

A big loss indeed. His epic academic contributions apart, he was a great person to know and talk to. At WAPOR conferences, he was one of the stalwarts many of us eagerly looked forward to chat with and learn. He will be missed by everyone around. Our sincerest condolences to his family.
– Yashwant Deshmukh

Wolf was a great scholar and a consummate collaborator, and I was fortunate to work with him on several projects.  He was instrumental in getting WAPOR access to Villa Colina in Cadenabbia for our conferences on survey quality, a topic close to his heart.  He worked tirelessly and way beyond the normal call of duty for the International Journal of Public Opinion Research, and he asked me to help out with various editorial duties.  I was glad to do this because it was another opportunity to work with him.  Finally, we collaborated in the editorial work for the Sage Handbook of Public Opinion Research.  Here I got to the see the full breadth of his knowledge of public opinion and mass communication research and the organizing principles that he thought guided these two fields.  This project was a joy. Wolf will be sadly missed for his contributions to our professional life and as a friend.
– Mike Traugott

Wolf’s death is great loss to his family and friends who are all over the world. He was contributive and willing to teach, to collaborate, and a first-rate scholar. His legacy will be remembered. As the first Managing Editor of IJPOR his contribution was unique, he got the Journal off to a flying start and it was a pleasure to work with him. We have all lost a great colleague.
– Bob Worcester

It is with deep regret that I first learned the sad news of Wolfgang´s departure. His friends and the research industry will miss him.
– John Pearl

Shocked. A big loss in every aspect. Deeply missed him. RIP Wolfgang.
– Angus Chung

Shocking news; completely unexpected, certainly by me, and a grievous loss to us all.A fine scholar who made an enduring contribution he was a great encourager of others and a pleasure to know.
– Murray Goot

This is extremely sad. As an association we need to find ways to pay him a tribute.
– Hernando Rojas

Oh this is very sad indeed! Wolfgang was always so supportive of freedom of opinion polling in the Philippines. A great friend of Social Weather Stations. All of us at SWS send condolences to his family.
– Mahar Mangahas

Very sad news. I’ll miss Wolfgang deeply. He was an inspiring and dear friend. It was valuable experience that I was able to work with him in editing board of WAPOR. I remember a happy time when[he] came for JAPOR conference.
– Etsushi Tanifuji

This is a very sad news and a big loss to all of us and to our field. I learned a lot from his work.
– Samir Abu Rumman

Oh dear! What a shock! What a loss! I have known Wolf for about two decades. He was the one who handed me the WAPOR tie when he came to our Hong Kong Regional Conference in 2005. After that, he came to Hong Kong fairly often. I am now using his Handbook of Public Opinion Research in my teaching, very heavily. He will be dearly missed, by me, my colleagues and my students.
– Robert Chung

I met him for the first time in Warsaw in 1978 and I was with him for the last time in March 2015 in Dresden, where we celebrated the Festschrift and Colloquium organized by his department to discuss the papers we had written for a book in his honour. I flew to Dresden with my colleague and former student Manuel Martin Algarra, who became one of Wolf’s closest friends, and we participated in the academic meeting and afterwards in the party offered to their friends and colleagues for Wolf, Eva and Thomas in their new house. And one morning Wolf took some of us for a detailed Dresden tour I will never forget. Yesterday was a very sad day.

This morning, again in my office I have been reading the beautiful note written by Patricia Moy, and afterwards the messages sent by Marta Lagos, Miguel Basanez, Marita Carballo, David Weaver, Frank Rusciano, Robert Einiger, Cricket Cohen, Edith de Leeuw, Nick Moon, Orlando Perez, Yashmant Deshmuck, Mike Trauggott and Bob Worcester. I am moved, and I would like to meet all of them to listen the many things anyone could say about Wolf. Wolf was also a member of my department, and he has come every year to be with us for a conference, some lectures, a seminar… When I entered in my office I took Wolf’s photograph that I had in a bookshelf and put it in my table, closer to me. Rest in peace. I think Wolf has made us closer friends.
– Esteban López-Escobar

I feel blessed to have known Wolfgang for 35 years. He was a creative scholar, a dynamic force in the field, and a caring person. I offer my sympathy to his family.
– Lee Becker

I’m still struggling to adjust to this tragic news, two days after I first heard Wolfgangs’s premature death from my colleagues in Ipsos Germany. I read the newspaper article in a state of shock, and immediately informed Renae (at WAPOR) and Bob (Worcester).

The flood of tributes speak volumes about Wolf, both as a person and as a scholar. There is little I can add that hasn’t already been said. He made the academic world, and those sectors he dealt with, a better place, with his enquiring mind, his real insight into the media, research, political science and communications. He cared deeply about quality and rigour. As Mike said, he was key to the Cadenabbia seminars, and his commitment to, and enthusiasm for, WAPOR were exemplary. He was extremely helpful to me when I was WAPOR President a few years after him and have so many fond memories of lively, stimulating discussions with Wolf over the past 30 years.

Some may not know that he had recently taken up the post of Chairman of Public Affairs (ie social and political research) of Ipsos Germany. He threw himself into this challenge with his usual passion and drive, relishing the opportunity of something new and different in parallel with his other commitments. I was delighted he agreed to take up our offer, and just a fortnight ago he was at a client conference in Berlin, talking enthusiastically about this new role. Tragically, it was not to last more than a few months. The world, and WAPOR, are the poorer for his untimely departure. He inspired many people, including me. It’s so sad.
– Brian Gosschalk

I thank Wolf for all his professional work and example, for his dedication to WAPOR and IJPOR, and for his friendly and always joyous company in our WAPOR meetings. My sincere condolences to his wife Eva and his son Thomas.
– Alejandro Moreno[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]