Man is a social being. He wants not only to know what and how is happening in the world around him but also to understand what other people think and how they evaluate what is happening, whether he has like-minded people and opponents, what place he, with his position and behavior, occupies among members of society. Information about the mood and opinions of members of society is even more important for power structures, which, in essence, should be guided by their citizens in the development of domestic and foreign policies. The ultimate goal in the activity of any power should be the well-being and satisfaction of the members of society if this power correctly understands its functions. Understanding these parameters, that is, how satisfied and prosperous the country’s citizens are, is given by sociology, which analyzes the data of social and cultural phenomena and plays a decisive role in identifying social dysfunctions [University of Jyväskylä, 2019].
The methods and results of sociological research are widely used for decision-making and planning in such areas as education, health, ecology, and urban planning, as well as in solving economic and social problems. The most important areas of research concern civil society, social movements, and activism.
How people around the world live, think, interact, and make important life-changing decisions are studied by national and international social research centers that place their research and analysis in a wide range of economic, demographic, political, cultural, and social contexts. [CESR, n.d.]. The purpose of the specialists of such centers, available in every country, based on public or private foundations, in universities or the media, NGOs, or various foundations, is to study interactions in the family, religious traditions and organized crime, racial, gender or class problems. Sociologists play an important role in decision-making as they can systematically collect information on the important issue of social inequality, provide insight into what is happening, and present alternatives to social policies and social services. Politicians in earlier periods relied on the editorial pages of newspapers to gauge community priorities, but few would suggest that this works these days given the dramatic decline of local newspapers and the growing politicization of some other news sources. Protests can reveal public discontent, but it’s hard to see how broadly the views of those who take to the streets, write letters or attend meetings resonate with society at large. Social media platforms have made it easier to express political opinions, but it’s hard to tell what the public thinks from posts made by politically active citizens, trolls, and “bots” [Davison, n.d.]
Experts believe that a properly conducted public opinion poll remains the best way to get the opinion of citizens. In an active attempt to give everyone an equal chance to be heard, opinion polls provide a way to get the opinion of citizens who are not interested or otherwise unable to express their political views. However, while public opinion is important, it cannot and should not completely determine public policy or legislative action. Political leadership can and should help inform and shape public opinion, especially in a representative democracy where elected officials often have more time, experience, and awareness of the complex situations facing a country than ordinary citizens. Moreover, public opinion may be inconsistent, based on a misunderstanding of reality, and/or have a weakly expressed basis. Despite these important caveats, knowledge of public opinion matters because it shows what society thinks it wants from its government, and this understanding can help identify when and where political leadership is needed [Clinton, 2021].
There are international associations of sociologists, for example, the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR), which emphatically state in their documents that “Public opinion is a critical force in shaping and transforming society”. In the light of this mission, the Association promotes in every country in the world the right to conduct and publish scientific research on what people and their groups think and how this thinking is influenced by various factors, applies scientific methods for this purpose, helps in the development and publication of public opinion research in around the world, promotes international cooperation and exchange between academic and commercial researchers, journalists and politicians, as well as between representatives of various scientific circles [WAPOR, n.d.].
An example of an effectively functioning sociological center is the Levada Center, a Russian non-governmental research organization. The Center regularly conducts its sociological research and is one of the largest research companies in the country. Levada Center maintains partnership relations with public opinion research centers in the CIS and Baltic countries and has been conducting regular public opinion surveys throughout the country since 1988. Among the partners and customers of the center are companies, universities, research, and non-profit organizations. Regular monitoring of public opinion is combined in the center with analytical work. The research results of the center are published by the leading mass media in Russia and the world [Levada-Center, 2003].
For more than 80 years, the American Gallup Institute has been developing metrics to measure key issues of global development and social responsibility, because reliable data is critical to holding leaders of all nations accountable for making the world a better place. In doing so, the Institute works specifically with indicators to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the goals adopted by the UN in 2015 as part of a 15-year call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve lives and prospects of people around the world. Each year, Gallup releases the Global Law and Order report, which tracks people’s perceptions of their safety, security, and trust in local police. The Global Law and Order report helps countries assess their progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of peace, justice, and strong institutions. Since 2005, Gallup has been tracking global perceptions of leadership performance from some of the biggest players on the world stage – the US, Germany, China, and Russia [Gallup, n.d].
Gallup’s mission is to inform opinion leaders and shape policy based on evidence, and this requires reliable data and highly qualified analysts. Gallup applies rigorous research standards to its polls, which track public opinion on virtually every political, economic, and social issue of public concern in more than 160 countries and regions around the world. Among the most significant and key surveys is a survey in the US of the opinion and perception of Americans on pressing political and economic issues and current events, the Gallup-Sharecare welfare index, which includes the most accurate data on the health status and behavior of Americans, a consumer survey in the field of education aimed at to give a voice to consumers of higher education by measuring the opinions, experiences, and expectations of future, current and former students.
The presence of several sociological research centers in Kazakhstan, such as, for example, the Public Opinion Research Center CIOM, the Center for Social and Political Research “Strategy”, Bisam Central Asia, and others give grounds for positive expectations. Citizens of Kazakhstan want to be heard. In order to effectively respond to the requests of citizens, the objective data of such centers can help in the implementation of the concept of the “Listening State”, which was announced by the Head of State Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in his message to the people of Kazakhstan dated September 2, 2019.
CESR (n.d.). Welcome to a Changing World. Retrieved from https://cesr.usc.edu/. Accessed on 23.03.2022.
Clinton, Joshua (2021). Polling Problems and Why We Should Still Trust (Some) Polls. Retrieved from https://www.vanderbilt.edu/unity/2021/01/11/polling-problems-and-why-we-should-still-trust-some-polls/. Accessed on 24.03.2022.
Davison, Phillips (n.d.). Mass media and social media. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/public-opinion/Mass-media-and-social-media. Accessed on 24.03.2022.
Gallup (n.d). Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/analytics/318350/human-development-goals.aspx. Accessed on 23.03.2022.
Levada-Center (2003). Retrieved from https://www.levada.ru/zakazchikam/vidy-issledovanij/. Accessed on 23.03.2022.
University of Jyväskylä (2019). Retrieved from https://www.jyu.fi/hytk/fi/laitokset/yfi/en/disciplines/sociology. Accessed on 23.03.2022.
WAPOR (n.d.). Wapor Constitution. Retrieved from https://wapor.org/about-wapor/constitution/. Accessed on 23.03.2022.
Note: The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the Institute’s editorial policy.
Nadirova Gulnar Ermuratovna graduated from the Oriental Faculty of Leningrad State University, in 1990 she defended her thesis on the Algerian literature at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies, in 2006 doctoral thesis - on modern Tunisian literature at the Tashkent Institute of Oriental Studies, Professor.