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Homepage > Archive > Numar: 2 > Public Surveys’ Ethics as the Source for the Legitimate Public Policy Actions

 Public Surveys’ Ethics as the Source for the Legitimate Public Policy Actions

  • Mădălina Zamfiroiu (The Romanian Institute for Evaluation and Strategy – IRES, 150 Calea Turzii Street, Cluj-Napoca, jud. Cluj, +4(0)364.710.701, E-mail:

Social research sets the baselines in many of the stages of the public policy cycle. It is important for people to trust these survey results in order to keep a certain social order. This paper discusses whether there is any social research ethics behavior to be considered, at all. The survey results help the authorities to legitimize the important financial resources they spend for implementing the public policy which people believe that solves their major problems. But those problems could not be really theirs; they could be just part of the elite’s hidden agenda that is brought into the public’s attention by the surveys. This article reveals some ways of tricking the public eye without any obvious violation of any social research ethic code. The standards in the social research field mainly refer to methodological aspects and not to the conceptualization of the themes and the contextualization of the analyses. They may say what a random sample is, but they don’t set the limits of analyzing the answers of a small group from the random sample as being significant when compared to the whole. The public opinion that seems to be questioned by the elites doesn’t exist before, it is manufactured while the surveys are carried on and it is stabilized once the results are spread by the media. Legitimizing the elite’s public policy actions through public opinion polls is not the side-effect; it is the main purpose of using public surveys in such cases. The discussion on the social research ethics is replaced by the discussion on the researchers’ moral behavior.

Keywords: ethics, social research, public opinion, public policy