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Basic principles of public opinion research. Abstract
Public opinion is a complex supra-individual formation, not a sum of opinions of individuals, which cannot be questioned because it does not correspond. It can only be explored by filtering out the “empty answers” of those who are not interested in a particular problem at all, do not have a definite position on these issues, and most importantly – sifting through filter questions and test questions all, as Americans say, “insignificant, incompetent and not relevant”
The development of democratic institutions in Ukraine and mass political, marketing, social applied polls raised a number of methodological and methodological problems on the specifics of sociological research of public opinion in contrast to other areas of social research, status and methodology of public opinion research as a supra-individual phenomenon, methods of scientific-theoretical and applied research. As practice shows, sociologists on the basis of professional poling can make many important theoretical and methodological generalizations about the functioning of the mechanism “politics – media – public opinion – mass consciousness of citizens.”
In domestic sociological science, the problem of studying public opinion was conceptually posed by V. Ossovsky. In the book “Public Opinion: An Attempt at Sociological Interpretation” and in scientific articles, he, based on the work of P. Bourdieu, P. Shaltan, J 123helpme.me. Gallup, formulated the methodological principles of such research: “We proceed from the statement: from a sociological point of view do not deal with real subjects of public opinion. Pauling data is a certain amount of individual opinions, which include, or may not include, subjects of public opinion … Public opinion is not just a mechanical sum of individual opinions “1. Identification of public opinion on the basis of opinions individual takes place with the help of special filter questions – confidence, awareness, competence, etc.
At the same time, having made theoretical and methodological generalizations important for the development of sociology of public opinion, V. Ossovsky inconsistently conducts them in his works. He believes that “there is a difference between the methodological arsenal of a polster and a sociologist due to different concepts of public opinion and styles of its research.
While for a polster the respondent’s answers are components and elements of public opinion, for a sociologist – only manifestations and symptoms, a building block for the reconstruction of public opinion “2. But, noting the difference between aggregate vision of public opinion (opinion) in polsters and structural – in sociologists, V. Ossovsky actually recognizes the right to the existence of two types of public opinion and two approaches to its study (from the standpoint of the political market or the market of goods and services “arithmetic opiniometry” is probably appropriate.) That is, both sociologists and polsters study public opinion (opinion) – only from different methodological positions, and it is impossible to agree with that.
First, because in mass sociological theoretical and applied (polster) research, the bulk of the questions do not concern individual opinions, but completely different types of information.
As noted by political research methodology experts D. Mannheim and R. Rich, “the survey provides the researcher with information of five types: facts, knowledge (percepcions), opinions (opinions), attitudes, attitudes and behavioral reports) respondents … The category of opinions includes the respondent’s judgments about his views on certain objects and events.
Questions such as, “Are you for or against the legalization of drug trafficking?” “Who would you like to see as the winner in the next local elections?” The attitude can be attributed to the relatively stable mood of the respondents and their assessment of certain phenomena and ideas “3.
That is, the identification of individual opinions (opinions) is only one element of both sociological and polster research. In the study of facts, reports of behavior or preferences, methodological polterster and sociological approaches do not differ. But polsters and sociologists must distinguish between individual attitudes toward certain actors, phenomena, and processes, and individual and public opinions.
Secondly, public opinion (public opinion polls), in contrast to individual opinions and attitudes, cannot be interviewed at all. Public opinion polls do not exist and cannot exist. Citizens, voters, consumers, spectators, etc. can be interviewed, and public opinion can only be explored as living and non-living objects, real and virtual, are studied.
Public opinion is a complex supra-individual formation, not a sum of opinions (“opinions”) of individuals, which cannot be questioned because it does not correspond. It can only be explored by filtering out the “empty answers” of those who are not interested in a particular problem at all, do not have a definite position (“opinions”) on these issues, and most importantly – sifting through filter questions and test questions all, as Americans say, that “insignificant, incompetent and irrelevant.”
All citizens of Ukraine have their own attitude (“attitudes” “attitudes”) to political, socio-economic, cultural, etc. events and processes taking place in society. Even people who are not interested in politics, uninformed and incompetent in politics, culture or economics, have something to do with them. Not necessarily positive or negative. This attitude can be neutral, uncertain and, very often, even indifferent.
Uncertain or indifferent opinion (“opinion”) does not happen. This is the absence of individual opinion. Not all citizens have individual opinions on the complex political, economic and cultural problems of society, and whoever has them does not always express them, especially to strangers (interviewers). And individuals who express their own opinion have far from equal weight in the formation of public opinion, because, first, not equally convincing and confident in their position (passive or aggressive modality); secondly, they have far from the same authority in society and their environment; third, they do not have the same communication capabilities (both direct and indirect through the media).
Therefore, in order to identify public opinion based on the statements of individual citizens in opinion polls on issues, it is necessary to filter the answers of those who do not have an opinion on a particular problem, uninformed, disinterested and incompetent, and possibly conduct a sociological “weighing” of those who remained. Otherwise, at best, with a representative sample, we will get the attitude of ordinary citizens to a particular problem, and at worst – “public opinion” about Hawaiian and Caribbean cuisine among Ukrainians based on the question: “Which cuisine do you prefer – Hawaiian or Caribbean? ” Some respondents will answer, although 99% of Ukrainians have not tasted either. The informative value of such surveys is very questionable.
Thirdly, we can not agree with the position of V. Ossovsky, who contrasts sociology and poling as spheres of activity: “Sociology is a science and as such focused on the search for truth, knowledge of social activity.
In the “information industry”, polling is based on the urgent needs of various groups and institutions, such as the media, parties, state and public institutions and organizations. “four
Sociology, which becomes a kind of “art for art’s sake” and a purely detached search for truth, deprived of an applied role, loses from such a distinction, first of all. Although in any textbook of sociology you can find a distinction between theoretical (fundamental) and applied sociology. If we bring applied research and development, and not only polling, but also test and focus group outside of sociological science, then sociology as a science becomes simply theorizing and loses an important source for its development – private orders of business structures, political actors, media, advertising, etc. And the search for truth, detached from the practical needs of society, turns sociology itself into scholasticism. It is necessary to bring applied sociological poling to the level of professional research in general and public opinion in particular, and not to refer sociological applied poling to another field of activity that has nothing to do with sociology.