Syndicate content

Public Opinion

What the Public Would Want If It Knew Better

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

We have often moaned about opinion polls and their limited value on this blog. You know, those things where people get asked about their favorite toothpaste and that gets sold as public opinion? The question, of course, is how to do it better. Public opinion is an intricate phenomenon. We don't really know how to define the public to begin with, let alone how to figure out their opinion.

There's been a great model around since the mid 90s: Deliberative Polling. Introduced by James Fishkin, Deliberative Polls are designed to "show what the public would think about the issues, if it thought more earnestly and had more information about them,” to provide a “glimpse of the hypothetical public” (Luskin, Fishkin, and Jowell, 2002). It works like this:

A Governance Reform Message from Barney Frank

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The landmark piece of legislation that President Obama signed into law yesterday - The Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, 2010 - was a massive lift for all concerned. Students of governance always say that a crisis is one of the best opportunities for reform, yet the fact of the global financial crisis has not made the reform of financial services an easy lift in any country. And we all know why: banks are rich and they can hire the best lobbyists either to block or water down the reform. So, the reform process has been tough, but now we have the historic legislation.

Last Thursday night, Charlie Rose interviewed Barney Frank, the Chair of the Financial Services Committee of the US House of Representatives. Frank, together with Senator Dodd, his opposite number in the Senate, shepherded the new law through Congress over many tough months. Towards the end of the interview, Rose asked him to reflect on the lessons of the reform process itself. What had he learned? You might be surprised by one of the things he said; but, then, if you have been reading this blog, you might not be.

Here is what he said: 

Public Budgeting, American Style

Taeku Lee's picture

On Saturday, June 26th, nearly 4,000 Americans from all walks of life participated in an all-day country-wide deliberation on the nation's fiscal future.  Town hall meetings held in 19 sites occupied the main stage for the day, with smaller scale discussions in more than 40 additional communities across the country and online venues for participatory input as well.  The event, organized by AmericaSpeaks had all the markers of political deliberation, American-style: electronic keypads and networked computers that lent a technologically updated verisimilitude to George Gallup's idea of palpating the "pulse of democracy" and, of course, lots of political contestation (more on this below).

Coda on Propaganda by the Deed

Sina Odugbemi's picture

You will have heard that the Government of Israel has agreed to ease  its 3-year-old land blockade of the Gaza strip, clearly in response to the international outcry that ensued when  a raid on a flotilla of aid ships bound for Gaza turned deadly on May 31. On that day Israeli commandos had killed nine pro-Palestinian activists. In the ensuing dispute both sides claimed they acted only to protect their own lives.

Naturally, I am not getting into the rights and wrongs of one of the most contentious disputes in international affairs, and the interminable 'peace process'. I am interested only in adding a coda to  an earlier post: The Power of Propaganda by the Deed. In that post, I drew attention to a technique available to the underdogs of the world when confronting the powerful. It works as follows:

The Age of Communication Research

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Communication is something of an ugly duckling in the social sciences – not many people take it seriously and not many people see the immediate relevance of the research. However, the study of public opinion is a good example to outline the immediate relevance of the field – and its future relevance.

Opining at the Speed of Light

Shanthi Kalathil's picture

During a recent discussion on the issue of diplomacy in the information age, hosted by the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, I got to mulling over the idea of the transnational public sphere. An interesting recent paper out of Europe by Jens Steffek focuses on the emergence of this transnational public sphere and its ability to successfully pressure public institutions for greater accountability and better governance. I believe new communication technologies have amplified this sphere's scope and scale. 
 
But the question that then arises is this: does the very force that enables and empowers the transnational public sphere also degrade the quality of deliberation upon which it depends to function effectively?  In a globally networked information environment, public opinion can coalesce in the blink of an eye, fed by multiple information sources both credible and non-credible. Can a transnational public sphere truly be an effective force for better governance if it is not backed by genuinely informed debate and deliberation? What separates a transnational public sphere from a transnational mob? 

The Power of Propaganda by the Deed

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The underdogs of the world, all the outgunned of the world, have a technique they can deploy that the powerful consistently underestimate. They can deliberately provoke the powerful, and the powerful take the bait and unleash their mighty forces. The key to the technique is that the underdogs make sure that the depredations of the powerful are caught on camera...and mass communicated.

Global Financial Markets: A Tale of Two Moral Publics

Sina Odugbemi's picture

On May 2 this year, Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, the gigantic Wall Street bank, was interviewed on CNN by Fareed Zakaria (his show is Global Public Square). Towards the end of the interview, Blankfein set up a striking distinction between the two publics of Goldman Sachs, as he saw them, and the ethical standards relevant to each public. The exchange is worth quoting in full:
 

ZAKARIA: We're back with the CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein. And finally, when George W. Bush tried to persuade Hank Paulson to become secretary of Treasury, as you know, he tried a couple of times and finally, he got Paulson to agree. It was a great coup to have gotten the chairman of Goldman Sachs, the most storied name in finance, to come to his administration and now, here you are with a very different reputation, particularly in the public's eyes. Do you think you can right, do you think that a few years from now, this will all have passed and Goldman Sachs will still be regarded with the same kind of awe and admiration it was or is that world over?

Forget the Mainstream Media - Go Web, Go Local

Paul Mitchell's picture

A Canadian band had a line in a song, "all touch, and all touch and no contact" which echoes the way that organizations try to reach people with information about development and governance. Very adept at knowledge production, material such as studies, books, reports, power points, research documents, they are often very good at sharing these among  ‘cocktail party’ colleagues. But what is being done about reaching the people who need to be convinced to take action with this knowledge?
 


Pages