Public views and social policy
Social research can be seen as one way of establishing a closer link between public views and the decisions of policy makers. Its main advantage over other kinds of public participation in policy formulation is its ability to reflect a more representative range of opinions. For this to be achieved some means must be found to assist members of the public to express their views on policy options of which they have little knowledge or to which given little thought. This often involves informing them about the issues being investigated. Experiences in a variety of social research projects illustrate the pitfalls which lie in the path of the researcher attempting to select an appropriate approach to educate survey respondents. Fundamental research is required on the communication effectiveness of the different approaches available, and their likely influence upon response to policy options. In the meantime, success in drawing meaningful conclusions from this type of social research will depend heavily upon the interpretive skills of individual researchers.
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