Monday, June 06, 2016

Attitudes towards public opinion polls in Georgia (Part 2)

CRRC/NDI’s public opinion polls become the subject of intense discussions after the results of every wave of the survey are released, with politicians from various political parties criticizing the polls. Such a situation, though, is not unique to Georgia. As Professor Arthur Lupia recently put it, pollsters are a “popular whipping boy in politics”, yet they also “can give people a stronger voice”. In a previous blog post, we showed that attitudes toward public opinion poll results are mixed in Georgia, with nearly equal shares of the population trusting, distrusting, and neither trusting nor distrusting the results. This blog post shows that even though public opinion polls are regularly criticized in Georgia, there is still a public demand for them. 

CRRC’s 2015 Caucasus Barometer survey asked respondents to rate the level of their agreement or disagreement with the following statements:

“Public opinion polls help all of us get better knowledge about the society we live in”;
“Ordinary people trust public opinion poll results only when they like the results”; 
“Public opinion polls can only work well in developed democratic countries, but not in countries like Georgia”;
“The government should consider the results of public opinion polls while making political decisions”;
“Politicians trust public opinion poll results only when these are favorable for them or for their party”;
“I think I understand quite well how public opinion polls are conducted”.

Those who, while answering the previous question about trust in polling results, reported they did not know anything about public opinion polls, were not asked these questions.
Two-thirds of the population agrees with the statement that the government should consider the results of public opinion polls while making decisions, and nearly half agrees that polls help everyone to better understand the society they live in.   

Note: A 10-point scale was used to record answers to these questions. On the original scale, code ‘1’ corresponded to the option “Completely disagree” and code ‘10’ corresponded to the option “Completely agree”. For the charts in this blog post, the answers were grouped as follows: codes ‘1’ through ‘4’ were labeled “Disagree”; codes ‘5’ and ‘6’ were labeled “Neutral”; codes ‘7’ through ‘10’ were labeled “Agree”. Options “Don’t know” and “Refuse to answer” aren’t shown on the charts.

The share of the population who disagree with the statement that “polls can only work in developed democratic countries, but not in countries like Georgia,” is almost twice as large as the share of those who agree with this statement.

At the same time, people don’t feel they have a good knowledge of how public opinion polls are conducted. Only 36% report believing they have a good understanding of it. 45% also report that ordinary people trust the results of public opinion polls only when they like them, and 62% report the same in the case of politicians. Increasing knowledge of and trust in polls are clear challenges for pollsters in Georgia.

Whether people trust them or not, polls are important for society, and the results presented in this blog post show that people do acknowledge this importance. Polls help everyone grasp what society thinks, and the majority of the population thinks the government should consider poll results when making decisions.

To learn more about public opinion polls, take a look at earlier blog posts including Attitudes toward public opinion polls in Georgia,  Ask CRRC | Survey vs Census and Pre-Election Polls | what would be needed. To learn more about how CRRC collects data, take a look at this video or read CRRC-Georgia’s Research Guidelines

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