"What was I thinking of?" Cover Image

„Vajon mire gondoltam?”
"What was I thinking of?"

On the interpretational uncertainties of attitudes to democracy

Author(s): Vera Messing, Bence Ságvári, Dávid Simon
Subject(s): Social Sciences
Published by: MTA TK Szociológiai Intézet
Keywords: European Social Survey; ESS; validity; reliabilty; democracy

Summary/Abstract: Our paper examines the validity of the rotating questionnaire block about perceptions of and attitudes towards democracy included in the European Social Survey’s sixth round. The presumptions that inspired our analysis was that respondents’ understanding of questions formulated in an internationally comparative survey may be challenging due to diverging theoretical constructions and narratives that feed historically developed notions of ‘democracy’. Moreover, even within the same country, people with different socio-economic, ethnic and educational background may have different perceptions of the same questionnaire ‘items’ investigated in the democracy questionnaire block. We applied a multi-method approach in analyzing the above methodological puzzle: a complex statistical analysis served to examine the consistency of answers to individual items and the entirety of the questionnaire block, while a focus group research helped to apprehend the variety of interpretations and perceptions of the individual items as well as problems of understanding various terms included in the question. Our findings support the initial hypothesis: respondents had obvious difficulties with understanding some of the items of the democracy questionnaire bloc, while several others hid differing interpretations. The conclusion of our analysis is that even though the European Social Survey is one of the most refined, well-prepared and validated comparative surveys in Europe, its data can’t be analyzed without careful consideration of what the individual questions might mean in different contexts.

  • Issue Year: 4/2014
  • Issue No: 4
  • Page Range: 4-24
  • Page Count: 21
  • Language: Hungarian