This social life

Is traditional research missing people with ‘unpopular opinions’?

What caught our eye this week?

Kantar’s work on international attitudes towards a COVID vaccine.

As we’d launched our report last week – it’s easy to compare the two.

How the observed world (social) reflects the researched world is something we think about a lot.

Kantar’s work (an online survey in November, and earlier in June) showed consistently similar themes to our work.

However, there was one big difference – the strength of the signal from those who definitively won’t take the vaccine.

The Kantar work looked at whether people were more worried about the COVID-19 disease versus a COVID-19 vaccine. This shows three groups:

  • More worried about catching and spreading COVID-19
  • Undecided
  • More worried about receiving a new vaccine

Looking at the social conversation also revealed three broad groups – characterised by their relative fear of the virus versus the vaccine. Our groups were:

  • The Pro-vaccine (more fearful of the virus than the vaccine)
  • The Conditionally pro-vaccine (more sceptical of the safety but not against a vaccine)
  • The Anti-vaccine (more fearful of the vaccine than the virus)

This gave us a similar basis for comparison.

This table compares the two studies. It shows almost identical ‘Pro’ groups, but divergence around the Undecided and ‘Anti’ groups.

Kantar Listen + Learn
Fear Virus Undecided Fear Vaccine Pro-vac Conditional Anti-vac
USA 36% 23% 41% 35% 15% 50%
Germany 45% 27% 28% 43% 16% 42%
UK 46% 23% 31% 46% 17% 37%

 

Is this another case of researched data underestimating views that might be less socially acceptable or controversial? Are traditional research methods overestimating more ‘conventional’ views?

Can observational data (via social) give a different, more rounded perspective? By bringing in the extremes does it enable us to see a more representative picture and anticipate the likely behavioural outcomes better?

We’ve been working on two hypotheses to explain the differences:

  • Those with more extreme views or more controversial attitudes are less likely to ‘show up’ in traditional research. And that,
  • People fear admitting to others (namely researchers) that they hold less ‘acceptable’ views. We discovered a fear of questioning the vaccine for some. The ‘Conditional’ group (i.e. the undecided) needed to ask questions, to be convinced but were worried about being labelled ‘anti-vaxx’. They were careful to state this is what they were not.

While social isn’t ‘national representative’ and does pick up on the extremes, it seems important to listen to those and views and recognise they do exist and are often firmly held.

If we listen better, across more places, with a broader spectrum of insight tools, we’ll hear people better. This will help us better prepare for the outcomes of difficult, complex, socially impactful public decisions.

If you’d like to know more about bringing observational data into your decision making, then please get in touch.

 

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