The Levada Centre Studies of the public opinion
The regular scientific seminar of ILSCR took place on 13th November. Alexey Levison, the Professor of Sociology, the Head of the Department of socio-cultural studies in the Yuri Levada Analytical Centre, gave a report about the sociological definition of public opinion, the methods of the data collection, research process and the dynamics of public opinion over the years.
Alexey Levinson began his report with the sociological view on the society and the public opinion. These terms must be clearly operationalized, because if you accept the phrase "Many men, many minds", it will be impossible to study the public opinion.
The public opinion doesn’t mean a complexity of opinions of every citizen, without any exception, it is not opinion of "all", but it is a force that seems and feels like "all" that you can learn. Of course, people are unique in their thoughts and attitudes, but it is necessary to allocate generic types of these attitudes to identify what tendencies are spread in the society. The more types you provide, the higher chance to avoid the uncertainty and errors you will get.
Studies of public opinion can be both quantitative, such as questionnaires, standardized interviews, and qualitative, such as a face-to-face, non-standardized interviews or discussion in the focus groups. The qualitative methods of collecting public opinion have no purpose to allocate the percentages of opinions, in contrast they show a more complex picture of the public opinion. Alexey Levinson said about the planning and conducting door-to-door personal interviews. Usually, interview lasts about 35 minutes, and during this time an experienced interviewer can ask up to 100 questions. After collecting, the supervisors call up the respondents and ask whether they have been interviewed.
The collected statistics are published in the special editions of the Levada Centre and the scientific journal "Vestnik" which is available on the official website. Every Internet user can learn the dynamics of public opinion over the years. Papers include such important topics as trust / distrust to the government, attitudes to parliamentary and presidential elections, religion, attitudes to political opposition, the estimation of the economic situation, the estimation of own material well-being, estimation of mood and many other topics.