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Public Opinion Research

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).