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Reading the Publics in Public Opinion by Dr Carol Soon

Asia Research Institute, NUS
Event organized by Asia Research Institute, NUS

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Jointly organized by the Asian Urbanisms Cluster of Asia Research Institute, and Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore.

Who’s Saying What?: Reading the Publics in Public Opinion

Dr Carol Soon, Institute of Policy Studies, NUS

Dr Sonia Lam-Knott, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

Public policymaking is shaped by and shapes public opinion towards critical issues relating to the nation, society and economy. As policy issues become more complex and “wicked”—involving more than one perceived solution, oftentimes conflicting views of the problem and solutions, multiple value conflicts and connection to other problems—studying and making sense of public opinion is fraught with challenges. With policymakers moving towards co-creation and the increasing political price attached to poor communication of policies, there is an imperative for policymakers to get a good grasp of public opinion. There are three schools of thoughts when it comes to citizen competence and they have implications on the extent to which public opinion serves as useful policymaking input. They range from Dahl’s (1971) perceptions of citizens as the government’s political equals, Converse’s (1964) largely clueless public, to the “middle way” approach which acknowledges existing knowledge gaps among citizens but recognises mechanisms which allow citizens to form meaningful policy preferences. In the real world, there are no publics that are likely to meet the classical expectations of the well-informed citizen, especially given the influence of demographic variables, and presence of many “publics” and an increasingly polarised information environment. This talk draws on three research projects involving the speaker—the triangulation of online and offline public opinion, online deliberation, and offline citizen engagement—and discusses the challenges in reading public opinion and what needs to be done.

For further Reading
- Gilens, M. (2011). Two-thirds full? Citizen competence and democratic governance. In A.J. Berinsky (Ed.) New Directions in Public Opinion (pp.52-76). NY: Routledge | https://www.routledge.com/New-Directions-in-Public-Opinion/Berinsky/p/book/9781138774667
- Zhang, W., & Soon, C (2017). The Main and Spillover Effects of Online Deliberation: Changes in Opinions, Informational Media Use and Political Activities. Proceedings of CeDEM 2017, Danube University Krems, Austria | http://onlinedeliberation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/CeDEM2017_weiyu-and-carol-CS.pdf

Carol Soon is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies where she leads the Society and Culture Department. She has a PhD in Communications and New Media from the National University of Singapore. Her research interests are in media regulation, digital inclusion, new media and activism, public engagement, and Singapore as a digital village. She has published her research in books and peer-reviewed journals such as Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Asian Journal of Communication and Journal of Information Technology and Politics. One of her current projects is on digital inclusion and children from different household types, funded by the Ministry of Social and Family Development. Carol is also an Associate Director of the Asia Journalism Fellowship which is supported by Temasek Foundation International, and a member of Singapore’s Media Literacy Council. In 2015, Carol received the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Research Excellence Award. She was also a recipient of the Australian Endeavour Award in 2012. Prior to joining academia, she worked in the corporate sector where she developed communication campaigns for profit and non-profit organisations.

Admission is free. We would greatly appreciate if you click on the "Register" button to RSVP | https://ari.nus.edu.sg/Event/Detail/09b2f815-6850-4332-ada7-f960ad612206

Source of image: https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2014/12/29/the-problem-with-more-government-limiting-civil-society/

In recent years, the multifaceted forms of civic practices—ranging from participatory urbanism, to artistic interventions, and to street protests launched by activists—have become more prominent in Asian cities, attracting scholarly attention across different disciplines. The transformations in civil society have raised the following questions: What are the emerging challenges and contingencies the varied interest groups are facing? What kind of conflicts can arise during and after instances of civil activism, and how can these tensions be ameliorated? How can social engagement, practice and research be bridged together by, and for, different individuals and agencies? When does social engagement become perceived as civil activism?

This seminar series, jointly organized by Asian Urbanisms cluster (ARI) and the Department of Architecture, critically presents and examines the novel forms of civic practices that have manifested in the Asian urban context through a transdisciplinary framework. Bringing together academics, practitioners, students, and the general public interested in urban spatial strategies in relation to negotiate the formation and role of civil societies, the seminars seek to initiate discourse on the following themes: First, to explore how the varied stakeholders involved in civil society groups, including academics and educators, activists, artists, NGOs, NPOs, informal interest groups and community associations, political parties, and governmental organizations currently de/reconstruct the contextual and physical understanding of shared urban space in Asia. It is of interest to review the main goals of the novel civic practices, and the extent in which these aspirations are realised. Secondly, these seminars seek to articulate how stakeholders engage in the process of collaborative knowledge production through these practices. More importantly, the aim of the series is to conceptualise civic practices as a product of the distinctive trajectories of socio-economic development, spatial/cultural policies, and the structures of political governance in the Asian region. To reiterate, these seminars provide an overview on the distinctive challenges and opportunities that contemporary Asian cities pose for civil societies, and the kind of local and global characteristics that are emerging in these locales.

Asia Research Institute | Minna Valjakka & Sonia Lam
Department of Architecture | Cho Im Sik & Lee Kah Wee