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Public Opinion Research

Media research and boring questions: What do global surveys miss?

Sonia Jawaid Shaikh's picture

In the past decade, much effort and attention has gone into media (including traditional types and digital technologies) research because the media are considered pivotal for social change and fundamental to human rights. Although several approaches exist to conduct media research; many researchers and policy makers use findings from publicly available survey data to conduct analyses, evaluate and make predictions. This data is often generated by large national or global (often wave-based) surveys that use random sampling techniques to interview respondents.

Given that the media and its effects generate so much interest, you would think that interesting and thought-provoking questions would be asked on media usage and user perceptions in these surveys. Surprisingly, that is not the case. Questions that tap into versatility, scope, ideas, usage and media perceptions in global survey research are quite uncommon. Interestingly, many surveys actually only incorporate items regarding media sources and usage frequencies alone.

Consider two primary sources of global attitudes and values research involving several countries: World Values Survey (WVS) and Afrobarometer.

4 findings on attitudes towards foreign aid in 17 donor countries

Jing Guo's picture

Pew Global Survey on Foreign Aid levelsA recent study by the Pew Research Center reveals that a majority of people in nine selected Sub-Saharan African countries[1] believe their countries need more foreign aid than they currently receive.
 
However, according to Ipsos, a global research company, the citizens in donor countries are not necessarily eager to provide financial assistance abroad.
 
Ipsos recently surveyed 12,709 individuals from 17 leading and emerging donor countries.[2] Ipsos asked them: how much they believe their governments currently are and should be spending on foreign aid; whether they perceive Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be important; and, who they think should be responsible for financially assisting developing countries to achieve those goals.
 
The results of the survey offer new insights into how people feel about foreign aid:

Quote of the Week

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

"The material for opinion research - all sorts of opinions held by all sorts of population groups - is not already constituted as public opinion simply by becoming the object of politically relevant considerations, decisions, and measures. The feedback of group opinions...cannot close the gap between public opinion as a fiction of constitutional law and the social-psychological decomposition of its concept. A concept of public opinion that is historically meaningful, that normatively meets the requirements of the constitution of a social-welfare state, and that is theoretically clear and empirically identifiable can be grounded only in the structural transformation of the public sphere itself and in the dimensions of its development."
 

-- Jürgen Habermas (1969, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, p. 244)

Let the People be the Judge!

Antonio Lambino's picture

It was in Manila last week where I came across a banner headline on a major broadsheet that read “The people, not surveys, should judge (the president’s) performance."  I was confused.  Aren't people’s attitudes, opinions, and intentions precisely what surveys seek to measure?  Aren’t surveys, in fact, meant to reflect the will and preferences of the people?

When surveys are done well and conscientiously, they provide valuable information from which we can derive knowledge helpful toward understanding people's opinions, especially on matters of public interest.  Applying public opinion research techniques can also aid in improving the quality of democratic governance, particularly in coming to more informed decisions that more closely reflect citizen preferences (e.g., James S. Fishkin’s chapter in Governance Reform under Real-World Conditions).