LAPOP has its origins in studies of democratic values in one country, Costa Rica
. This pioneering public opinion research took place in the 1970s, a time in which much of the rest of Latin America was caught in the grip of repressive regimes that widely prohibited studies of public opinion. As democratization expanded in Latin America, LAPOP grew in scope and size. Today LAPOP regularly carries out public opinion surveys in nearly every country in Latin America, Canada, the United States, and much of the Caribbean.
In 2004, LAPOP established the AmericasBarometer as multi-country, regularly conducted surveys of democratic values and behaviors in the Americas, organized by a consortium of academic and think-tank partners in the hemisphere. The first round included voting-age respondents from 11 countries. The second round of surveys took place in 2006 and represented 22 countries from the hemisphere. The third round, 2008, included 24 countries in the Americas. In 2010, 26 countries were included, from North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean, adding Trinidad & Tobago as well as Suriname to the 24 countries covered in 2008. In 2012, which marks the latest round of surveys, 26 countries were included again, and over 41,000 surveys were carried out. The project is currently in the field for the 2014 round, which will consist of national surveys from 27 countries across the Americas. The AmericasBarometer is the most expansive regional survey project in the Western Hemisphere.
LAPOP prides itself in employing rigorous methodology, employing carefully designed stratified and clustered national samples, dozens of pretests for each new questionnaire module introduced, the widespread use of handheld computers to collect the data, extensive training of interviewers by LAPOP faculty and staff, and free on-line access to all of our data. External evaluations
of LAPOP have called its surveys "state of the art."