Michael S. Pollard

Photo of Michael Pollard
Senior Sociologist; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Santa Monica Office


Ph.D. and M.A. in sociology, Duke University; M.A. and B.A. in sociology, University of Victoria

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email media@rand.org.

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Michael S. Pollard is a senior sociologist at the RAND Corporation and a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. His primary research areas include social networks and health (physical, mental, and health behaviors), demography, and family. His recent work has focused on the health implications of different types of friendship and romantic relationships, including an ongoing five-year project tracking adult social networks and alcohol use using nationally representative data. He also studies voter beliefs and behaviors, and led the RAND 2016 Presidential Election Panel Survey project, tracking voter beliefs and intentions for a year leading up to the election, as well as leading 2014 and 2018 midterm election studies. He has conducted work on veteran demographics and well-being, and has an additional line of research on recruiting individuals for the Army and Reserve Components. His work has been published in numerous academic journals and peer-reviewed RAND reports. Pollard received his Ph.D. in sociology from Duke University.

Recent Projects

  • Adult Social Networks and Well-Being
  • RAND 2016 Presidential Election Panel Survey and RAND 2014 & 2018 Midterm Election Opinion Study
  • Current and Future Demographics of the Veteran Population: 2014-2024
  • Exploring the Formation of an American Veterans Panel
  • Context of Adolescent Risk Behaviors In Networks (CARBIN)

Selected Publications

Pollard, Michael S., J.S. Tucker, & H.D. Green., "Adult Alcohol Use and Consequences During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the US.," JAMA Network Open, 3(9), 2020

Ernesto F.L. Amaral, Michael S. Pollard, Joshua Mendelsohn, and Matthew Cefalu. , "Current and Future Demographics of the U.S. Veteran Population: 2014-2024. ," Population Review, 57, 2018

Pollard, Michael S., Tucker, Joan S.; Green, Harold D.; de la Haye, Kayla.; Espelage, Dorothy L., "Adolescent Peer Networks and the Moderating Role of Depressive Symptoms on Developmental Trajectories of Cannabis Use," Addictive Behaviors, 76, 2018

Pollard, Michael S., Joan S. Tucker, Kayla de la Haye, Harold D. Green & David P., "A Prospective Study of Marijuana Use Change and Cessation Among Adolescents," Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 144, 2014

Karney, Benjamin R., David S. Loughran, & Michael S. Pollard, "Comparing Marital Status and Divorce Status in Civilian and Military Populations," Journal of Family Issues, 22, 2012

Pollard, Michael S., Joan S. Tucker, Harold D. Green, David Kennedy, & Myong-Hyun Go, "Friendship Networks and Trajectories of Adolescent Tobacco Use," Addictive Behaviors, 68, 2010

Wu, Zheng, Margaret J. Penning, Michael S. Pollard, and Randy Hart, "In Sickness and in Health: Does Cohabitation Count?" Journal of Family Issues, 24, 2003

Pollard, Michael S. and S. Philip Morgan, "Emerging Parental Gender Indifference? Sex Composition of Children and the Third Birth," American Sociological Review, 67, 2002

Honors & Awards

  • Bronze Medal, 2021, RAND
  • Blue Ribbon Award, 2004, 2008, Population Association of America


  • U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink and Ukraine's Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova visit Borodianka, in the Kyiv Region, Ukraine, June 4, 2022, photo by Edgar Su/Reuters

    Do Americans Know Who Their Diplomats Are? Or What They Do?

    Americans have a limited understanding of how diplomats are selected and how diplomacy interacts with other elements of the U.S. national security establishment. Efforts to better inform and engage the American public about the work of diplomacy and who American diplomats are would lead to a greater understanding of the job and its people.

    Jun 20, 2022 The Hill

  • Nurse practitioner Lisa Flemmons and chief nursing officer Robin L. Steaban give a thumbs up after Flemmons received a COVID-19 vaccine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, December 17, 2020, photo by George Walker IV/USA Today via Reuters

    Who Can Effectively Champion the Vax?

    Vaccine hesitancy appears to be one more hurdle in ending the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC would typically lead a campaign to overcome it, but Americans' trust in the CDC has declined measurably. Health care professionals may be more effective messengers when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines.

    Apr 9, 2021 MedPage Today

  • United States Postal Service workers load mail into delivery trucks outside a post office in Royal Oak, Michigan, August 22, 2020, photo by Rebecca Cook/Reuters

    The USPS Is a Public Service, Not a Business

    As Congress and the White House debate how to assist the Postal Service, it will be important to understand the effects of proposed cost-cutting measures on mail delivery of vital services, smaller and rural communities, low-income communities, and the USPS's broader public safety and security functions.

    Apr 6, 2021 The National Interest

  • United States Postal Service employee Brandis Neal delivers mail in Houston, Texas, August 18, 2020, photo by Adrees Latif/Reuters

    The United States Postal Service Is More 'Essential' Than You Thought

    The U.S. Postal Service is an essential service that delivers mail to every address in the country, connects rural communities, and contributes to public safety. But it is still mistakenly thought of as a private business that should be able to turn a profit.

    Aug 25, 2020 The Hill

  • An officer with Schertz Police Department holds a FedEx truck from entering the scene of a blast at a FedEx facility in Schertz, Texas, U.S., March 20, 2018

    Austin Bombings Highlight a Potential Vulnerability in the Mail Delivery System

    USPS is better than private couriers at identifying and detecting suspicious packages. Given that they are increasingly handling

    Apr 17, 2018 Inside Sources

  • The cover of the New York Post newspaper is seen with other papers at a newsstand in New York, November 9, 2016

    Why the Polls Were Wrong

    RAND's Presidential Election Panel Survey, like other polls, overpredicted the popular vote. But since it focused on the decisionmaking process and how that translated into behaviors, the data could provide deep insights into what happened and how it took pollsters by surprise.

    Nov 14, 2016 U.S. News & World Report

  • Stickers are displayed at a polling station for the Wisconsin presidential primary election in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, April 5, 2016

    The Latest from the RAND Presidential Election Panel Survey

    RAND's panel survey examines voter attitudes, intentions, and choices, and how these change throughout the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Some sizeable shifts in positions occurred in survey results from December to March.

    Apr 7, 2016 The RAND Blog

  • Elissa Wenthe (C) holds her 4-month-old son as she listens to U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speak at Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa, January 24, 2016

    RAND Kicks Off 2016 Presidential Election Panel Survey

    RAND's panel survey examines voter attitudes, intentions, and choices, and how these change throughout the 2016 U.S. presidential election. What sets this effort apart from public opinion surveys and political polls is that it surveys the same people over the course of the election.

    Jan 27, 2016 The RAND Blog

  • Colleagues discussing ideas

    Do Young 'Elites' Favor Income Redistribution?

    Young 'elites' -- employed Americans who are 40 or younger, with high household incomes and graduate degrees -- and especially Democratic elites have a strong preference for income redistribution.

    Oct 8, 2015 The RAND Blog

  • A mask-wearing man walks past an apartment building where a child was taken to the hospital to be tested for Ebola, New York City, October 27, 2014

    How the Public Perceives Ebola Risk in the United States

    The Ebola outbreak in Africa and the cases in the United States weighed heavily on the minds of policymakers and the public. While the Ebola threat was (and is) certainly real, many Americans greatly overestimated their chances of contracting the deadly disease.

    Mar 30, 2015 The RAND Blog

  • Man with a laptop at beach resort

    The Great American Working Vacation

    For years, vacations were a time for Americans to reset and renew, a time away from work. But more and more, Americans check their email, take calls, and work while on vacation.

    Jan 19, 2015 Newsweek

  • Sidney Plummer cheers during the San Francisco Gay Pride Festival, June 29, 2014

    Gay Marriage Gains Support, but It's Still a Partisan Issue

    Survey data provides evidence that the majority of American voters support the legalization of gay marriage and think it should be decided at the federal level. Republicans are substantially less likely to support legalization, and lower income, lower educational attainment, being older, and being non-white are significantly associated with lower levels of support.

    Dec 29, 2014 Newsweek

  • Gail Lopez-Henriquez wears an 'I Voted Today' sticker on Election Day morning in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 4, 2014

    Republicans May Make Gains in Midterm Election, but Democrats Remain Strong Nationally

    The Republican Party has a strong chance of maintaining control of the House of Representatives and possibly even gaining control of the Senate. But survey results suggest that, while individual races may vary, support for Republican candidates nationwide may be less than support for Democratic candidates.

    Nov 4, 2014 The RAND Blog

  • A boy wearing a football helmet

    Adults Are Concerned About Sons Playing Football, Especially the More Highly Educated and Obama 2012 Voters

    According to new data, 44 percent of American adults wouldn't be comfortable letting their sons play football. Roughly the same percentage was uncomfortable with their sons playing ice hockey.

    Nov 4, 2014 The RAND Blog

  • U.S. residents in line to vote

    Survey Says: House, Senate Races Too Close to Call

    Recent survey data suggests competitions for both houses of Congress are too close to call. While reported probability of voting for a given party has remained constant overall, churn in individual responses indicates some voters are changing their minds.

    Oct 27, 2014 The RAND Blog

  • U.S. Capitol in autumn

    Voters Give Republicans an Edge in Senate Races, House Too Close to Call

    Significantly more survey respondents anticipate Republicans will take the Senate for their state compared to those who anticipate Democrats will. However, there is not a clear difference in opinion regarding the race for the House.

    Oct 16, 2014 The RAND Blog

  • A teenage election volunteer helping a senior man use a touch screen

    With Midterm Elections Less Than a Month Away, New Survey Data Shows Many Voters Have Made Up Their Minds

    Survey responses indicate many U.S. voters already know how they'll cast their ballots in the upcoming midterm elections. But RAND's unique methodology provides an interesting perspective on those who don't lean strongly toward Republican or Democratic candidates.

    Oct 9, 2014 The RAND Blog

  • A justice scale with more money on one side than the other

    New Survey Data Indicates Increasing Polarization in the Ways Democrats and Republicans View the Role of Government in Reducing Income Inequality

    Today, Democrats are more than six times likelier than Republicans to believe the U.S. government should play a role in reducing income inequality. This is not due to differences in age, gender, education, or income distributions among the two parties.

    Oct 9, 2014 The RAND Blog