Measuring public opinion is a complicated task. It is critical to define how public opinion should be interpreted in order to understand what the object of measurement represents. Thus, Converse (1987, p.513) suggests an explicit description of the term saying that it is “a kind of complex organic whole which mirrored the organization of society into functional groups.” From this perspective, the subject of measurement is more complicated than a simple reflection of the shared views and beliefs. Therefore, the survey aimed at measuring public opinion can assist in getting a better idea not only of the targeted issue but the structure of the modern society as well.
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As long as the measured issue is connected with politics, one is particularly concerned about the survey design. Researchers note that political polls are prone to inaccuracies due to the ambiguous character of the subject (Soroka & Wlezien 2010). Therefore, the key aim of the paper is to provide a valid questionnaire, the design of which will be able to assure valid results that reflect the reality in an accurate manner. The focus will be put on the selection of variables as the latter determine the survey’s outcomes.
The principal idea resides in the presumption that the support of the use of force is determined by the political views of the respondents (Everts & Isernia 2001). The relevant assumption is scientifically based and supported by numerous researchers and sociologists (Jentleson 1992). As a result, all the variables will essentially have political connotations.
Explanation of the Political Views – the Support of the Use of Force Relationships
Political views determine a large scope of social opinions. The tendency to shape one’s views in accordance with political preferences has always been popular in developed countries (Baum 2014). Therefore, people evaluate different events and phenomena relying on their political convictions that are often stronger than religious beliefs. In the meantime, there are other important variables that should be necessarily considered, they are represented in the diagram below.
People of different nationalities can have various views on the support of the use of force. National identity might determine the extent of the support due to the fact that residents of different countries interpret this question through the lens of the politics that their government pursues. Statistics show that a large percentage of people are inclined to agree with the government in terms of its principal decisions (DeRouen 1995).
Different religions have different implications for aggressiveness. Whereas some religious beliefs disapprove of militarist ideas, others consider force to be an appropriate tool for problem-solving. As a result, it is supposed that religion might have an impact on the character of the respondent’s general disposition – the more aggressive it is, the more likely the respondent is to support the use of force.
The following variable is presumed to be critical because it provides some insights into the respondents’ political knowledge. It is assumed that school students have less political experience than adults.
The relevant variable is included due to the natural psychological differences in genders. Hence, it is commonly assumed that men are more likely to approve of military interventions and force implementations than women (Baum 2014).
Mass media shapes the views of society considerably. The general public appeal streamlined from the news supports the use of force, particularly in the framework of the events in the Middle East. Therefore, it is assumed that the respondents that tend to rely on the media experts’ opinion are more apt to support the use of force.
Attitude to Foreign Aid
The use of force is commonly regarded in relation to foreign aid. Politicians explain the necessity to employ military force by the intention to help a particular government solve its inner problems. Such public appeals have strong implications for the spread of democratic values worldwide (Eichenberg 2005). Moreover, the attitude toward foreign aid implies the respondents’ interpretation of welfare. Practice shows that there is a widespread assumption that military expenses have a negative impact on the nation’s welfare. For instance, DeRouen (1995, p.672) notes that there is a consistent “link between the economy, politics, and the use of force”. Thus, many people are inclined to consider that the money spent on the use of force should be reallocated to other sectors for the benefit of the residents. Therefore, public support of the use of force depends largely on the attitude to foreign aid.
The support of the Use of Force in Syria
The support of the use of force in Syria is a direct indication of the support of the use of force in general. In the meantime, some people might approve of the political strategy in Syria only in theory. Therefore, in the framework of the proposed survey, the attitude to this side of politics will mainly focus on the financial side of the force employment. Analysts note that the public evaluation of the expenses in the force sector is the most objective characteristic of the real attitude to the political strategy in this field (Leander 2005).
Political knowledge is important in terms of the support of the use of force. Profound knowledge in this field lets one evaluate the problem more complexly. Meanwhile, measuring political knowledge is rather problematic. Thus, it can be performed with the help of the questions about particular laws and politicians. Specialists point out the fact that the majority of people find it less problematic to express their opinion on specific issues rather than on general phenomena and notions (Norrander 2001). Practice shows that the public support of the use of force is reflected by the residents’ attitude to the implementation of particular laws and regulations (Neack 2002).
Finally, it is critical to determine the respondent’s political views. It is assumed that liberals that belong to the left-wing are less likely to support force (Art & Waltz 2004). Meanwhile, the Republicans, which commonly belong to the right-wing, are historically more supportive in the question of force employment (Kohn 1994).
Measuring Internal Factors
The variables of sex, nationality, religious beliefs and age are measured with the help of Q1-Q4 correspondingly. Q1-Q4 represents open questions that do not require any specific knowledge or clarifications.
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Measuring Mass Media’s Impact
This variable is measured by Q13. The question does not require any specific knowledge. It is the last question in the survey; thereby, it is assumed that the respondents’ motivation is likely to be relatively low at that point. As a result, the respondents are offered a closed question instead of an evaluating scale.
Measuring Attitude to Foreign Aid
The public attitude toward foreign aid is measured with the help of Q5 and Q6. In Q5, a closed question is employed in order to receive a precise idea about the respondents’ opinions. The question does not only ask whether respondents support aiding foreign countries but also has strong implications for its financial side. Thus, the respondents are initially informed about the expenses required for military services.
It is assumed that the relevant posing of questions will help to receive a more realistic view of the public attitude. Researchers note that a large percentage of people express the support of the use of force until they get acquainted with the financial side of the question (Lian & Oneal 1993). Therefore, the question is posed in such a way that it initially prompts the respondents to consider all the aspects relating to foreign aid.
Despite the common critics of closed questions and the assumption that they do not provide the reflection of public opinion, it is assumed that in this particular case, this type of question is the most appropriate (Schuman & Scott 1987). The question is posed in such a way that it does not imply any specific knowledge of the subject or require any thorough evaluation. It is also critical to point out that it is the first question in the survey, thereby, it is important that the respondents answer it quickly and easily. Otherwise, the necessity to spend a lot of time on considerations might discourage the interviewed and have a negative influence on their general motivation (Krosnick 1991).
One of the principal risks of data corruption is connected with the position of the question in the survey. Hence, practice shows that respondents tend to be less attentive at the very beginning trying to cope with the first questions in the shortest time possible (Bradburn & Sudman 1979). Therefore, some data might be inaccurate due to the willingness to pass on to other points in the survey.
Q6 focuses on welfare interpretation. The general attitude to welfare is measured by Q6 in the survey. The respondents are offered to express their opinion on the basic nature of welfare with the help of a ten score scale. According to the relevant scale, score “1” reflects the conviction that people can only benefit at others’ cost; whereas score “10” stands for the belief that there is enough welfare in the world to be equally spread.
In the framework of the examined subject, the support of the use of force, it is assumed that people that evaluate their position at 1-5 will be less inclined to support foreign aid, and thus, the use of force, than those that choose the 5-10 scores. The assumption is based on the research’s results that reflect the interconnection between the social interpretation of welfare and their willingness to share it (Whitaker 2008).
The measuring scale is employed in order to let the respondents express their views in a maximally accurate manner. The scale allows people to avoid judgmental definitions, which is highly important for questions with moral implications. According to Streb et al. (2008, p.80) people tend to give socially desirable answers when dealing with “controversial issues.” Thus, it is important to avoid asking this question directly.
It is, likewise, critical to note that the question is asked at the beginning of the survey. Various studies of evaluating public opinion show that specific questions requiring particular knowledge tend to have a negative impact on the respondents’ motivation in further answers (Rowe & Frewer 2000). The fact that answering this question does not imply any specific knowledge but bases exclusively on the personal convictions provide a guarantee that the respondents’ motivation will not decrease significantly at the survey’s beginning.
The key risk of data corruption resides in the fact that the question has ethical implications. Thus, it is assumed that some people would either give inaccurate assessments or would provide a completely reversed evaluation in order to avoid being blamed for immoral and unethical views of social welfare.
Measuring the attitude towards the support of the Use of Force in Syria
The general attitude to the support of the use of force in Syria is measured by Q9, Q11, and Q12. Q9 is posed in such a manner that it initially offers three options for the respondents. The latter are welcomed to evaluate national politics from the perspective of the amount of money it can potentially spend on foreign aid. It is assumed that those people who consider the expenses to be excessive do not support the use of force, whereas those, who suppose them to be too little or enough, show a larger extent of support.
The type of question offered, in this case, is determined to maintain the respondents’ motivation to continue the survey. Thus, the structure that includes the possible answers is aimed at facilitating the answering process and minimizing the risks of inaccurate or illegible responses (Groves 2006). Another reason why the question is not utterly opened is that the provision of potential answers is likely to simplify their interpretation.
Q11 and Q12 are placed at the end of the survey when the expected motivation will be rather low. Thus, it is offered to employ closed questions in this case. In the meantime, it is critical to point out the high risk of inaccuracy. Data corruption might occur due to the fact that answering the relevant questions requires specific knowledge about the expenses on foreign aid and the situation in Syria. As a result, it is expected that a certain percentage of the interviewed will either provide the answer at random or miss the question at all.
Measuring Political Knowledge
The relevant variables are measured by two questions in the survey: Q7 and Q10. Question 7 offers the respondents to evaluate the policy pursued by a particular politician, David Cameron. The expected answers to this question are “I approve”, “I disapprove”. Question 10, in its turn, suggests expressing one’s opinion on the implementation of the Monetary Control Bill. In this case, the respondents are asked not only to show their approval or disapproval but to precise its extent. It is assumed that those respondents that support the use of force are likely to express their approval of David Cameron’s policy and the Monitory Control Bill (Dodds & Elden 2008).
Both questions are supposed to provide valuable insights into the studied issue as they are connected with particular political individuals and events. Practice shows that respondents find it easier to evaluate a particular phenomenon in case they are offered the relevant association (Converse 1964).
Q7 is not completely opened as it contains potential answers. The relevant choice is determined mainly by the position of the question in the survey. As long as it is offered in the middle, one assumes that the respondents might find it discouraging to provide answers for an utterly opened question at this point. The structure of the Q10 is more complex. It implies choosing between two options – “approval” and “disapproval” – and clarifying the extent. As long as this is one of the final questions in the survey, it is expected that the respondents feel more engaged in the process at this point; thereby, they will give the question a profound consideration.
The principal risk resides in the fact that both questions require possessing a highly specific knowledge. Therefore, the respondents will not be able to provide relevant answers unless they have at least some ideas about David Cameron’s work or the key functions of the Monitory Control Bill. It is, consequently, expected that a certain part of the answers provided will not reflect the real opinion of the respondents.
Measuring Political Views
The political views of the respondents are measured through Q8. The relevant question offers a similar scale as in Q6. According to this scale, respondents can characterize their views as either “left” or “right” and indicate the extent of their belonging to one of the groups. Statistics show that political views play a significant role in social surveys as they determine largely respondents’ attitudes to a particular issue (Atkeson 1999). As a result, it is assumed that those respondents who describe their views as left-wing are more likely to express their support of the use of force than those interviewed that share conservative right-wing views.
The structure of the question is determined by the intention to provide the respondents with multiple answering options. The relevant question implies revealing discreet political beliefs; therefore, some respondents might reject to answer, in case, it has a standard closed structure. Practice shows that employing a scale is the best solution for those questions that deal with contradictory or excessively sensitive issues (Page 1994). Moreover, answering this question does not imply having any specific knowledge; instead, it deals with the personal evaluation. As a result, the respondents can provide an accurate assessment of their views.
The key risk in the relevant case is determined by the character of the information required. Thus, the interviewed are suggested sharing information of a relatively discreet character. Practice shows that many people express unwillingness when they need to reveal their true political beliefs (Feldman 1988). As a result, the potential outcome might be that a large number of respondents prefer either to leave out the question or to define their pertaining to one of the “wings” at the score 5. The average score is highly undesirable in any survey as it provides no information on the respondents’ views. It is highly problematic to indicate whether the respondent chose this score because it best matched his attitude or pointed it at random in order to avoid missing out on the question.
In order to carry out a reliable public opinion measurement, one has to consider a series of critical factors such as the character of questions, the key variables, the general survey structure and the question’s posing.
The proposed survey is aimed at measuring public opinion on the support of the use of force. The main idea resides in the assumption that the support of the use of force is determined by political factors. As a result, there are five key variables implemented in the structure of the survey: public attitude to welfare, social opinion on the foreign aid, the public view of the national policy and specific strategies from the prospects of foreign aid, and the political convictions of the respondents.
The questions in the survey are designed with due consideration to their position in the poll, as well as the character of information required in potential answers. Thus, some of the questions offer the respondents a multi-score scale, whereas others represent closed and opened types of questions. While working out the survey’s designed one tried to adopt the best practices of scientific research and avoid the most common mistakes. Therefore, most of the questions are posed in such a way that they help to keep the respondents motivated till the end of the survey. In the meantime, data corruption is likely to be present in some cases where a question requires specific knowledge or deals with particularly sensitive issues that the respondents might not want to discuss.
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- Indicate your sex.
- Indicate your nationality
- Indicate your religious beliefs, if any
- Indicate your age
- Would you be willing to pay higher taxes in order to increase your country’s foreign aid to poor countries?
- Do you approve or disapprove of the way that David Cameron is handling his job?
- In a political matter, people talk of “the left” and “the right”. How would you place your views on this scale, generally speaking?
- Would you say that your country spends too much, too little, or about the right amount on overseas aid?
- How far do you approve or disapprove of the government’s Monetary Control Bill that is currently going through Parliament?
- Do you approve of or disapprove of your country’s using force in Syria?
- Do you think the military operation in Syria would be cost-effective?
- Do you rely on Mass Media in terms of foreign politics?