Don Dillman, Ph.D.

Deputy Director for Research & Development

Contact Information:


Don A. Dillman is a Regents Professor, Department of Sociology and Deputy Director for Research and Development in the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center (SESRC) at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, where he has been a faculty member since 1969.

He is recognized worldwide as a major contributor to the development of modern mail, telephone and Internet survey methods. In 1970, he was founding coordinator of the SESRC’s Public Opinion Laboratory (1970-1973), one of the first university-based telephone survey laboratories in the United States. His book, Mail and Telephone Surveys: The Total Design Method (1978), was the first to provide detailed procedures for conducting surveys by these methods, and is now in its 4th edition as, “Internet, Phone, Mail and Mixed-Mode Surveys, The Tailored Design Method (Dillman, Smyth and Christian, 2014).  From 1991-1995  he served  as the senior survey methodologist in the Office of the Director, U.S. Bureau of the Census, where he provided leadership for the development of new questionnaire designs and procedures for the 2000 Decennial Census and other government surveys.  This and related work on other federal agency surveys led to his receiving the 2000 Roger Herriot Award for innovation in federal statistics.

Dillman was among the first to systematically apply vision science to derive principles for designing self-administered questionnaires. The resulting practices, including unified mode construction, have become standard data collection procedures for many official government surveys in the U.S. and other countries. He is also well-known for his efforts to develop effective mixed-mode survey methods. In 2017 he and his research team (Jolene Smyth, Leah Christian, Benjamin Messer, Morgan Millar and Michelle Edwards) received the American Association for Public Opinion Research Warren J. Mitofsky Innovators Award for the creation and testing of a web-push data collection methodology that is now used worldwide for censuses and other surveys relevant to public policy.

Dillman served as President of the American Association of Public Opinion Research (2001-2002). He was also President (1984-85) of the Rural Sociological Society and recipient of its Excellence in Research (1998) and Distinguished Rural Sociologist (2008) awards. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1987) and the American Statistical Association (1995) and the 2002 recipient of the Society for Applied Sociology Lester F. Ward Award for Distinguished Contributions to Applied Sociology. In 2016 he received the Joseph Waksberg Award from the American Statistical Association and Statistics Canada for outstanding contributions to the theory and practice of survey methodology and the Paul F. Lazarsfeld Award from the American Sociological Association for a career of scholarship in sociological methodology. Dillman also received the American Association of Public Opinion Research “AAPOR Award” for Exceptionally Distinguished Achievement in 2002, and the World Association for Public Opinion Research Helen Dinerman Award for career contributions to innovative research and methodology (2006).

At Washington State University, he was the 1985 presenter of the Distinguished Faculty Address; 1994 recipient of the College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Achievement Award; 1995 winner of the University Sahlin Faculty Excellence Award for Research; and 2002 recipient of the Eminent Faculty Award, WSU’s highest faculty honor.

He has presented seminars at more than 35 universities throughout the United States, and lectured in Sweden, Ireland, Germany, Norway, The Netherlands, Canada, China, Guam, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, South Korea, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. He has served multiple times as Guest Professor at the German Center for Survey Methods and Analysis in Mannheim and as an instructor at the University of Michigan’s Summer Survey Institute and the Evaluator’s Institute. He has presented short courses and webinars on designing surveys and delivered nearly 100 keynote and other major addresses to organizations and conferences. He has also served as a consultant on survey design to government statistical agencies and private organizations throughout the world.

Dillman has three degrees from Iowa State University (B.S. Agronomy, 1964; M.S. Rural Sociology, 1966; Ph.D. Sociology, 1969). He has served Washington State University as Chair of the Department of Rural Sociology (1973-81) and Director of the SESRC (1986-1996). Throughout his 48 year career at Washington State University, he has maintained an active research program on the improvement of survey methods that included being principal investigator on more than 80 grants and contracts worth approximately $13 million, and an author or editor for 17 books and more than 260 other publications. According to Google Scholar these publications have been cited more than 60,000 times.

Dr. Dillman was raised on a farm near Chariton, Iowa, and in 1964 married Joye Jolly Dillman (B.S., M.S., Iowa State University), associate professor emeritus in the Department of Human Development at Washington State University.

October 2018