cApStAn’s Steve Dept and Devasmita Ghosh reporting from  the 75th WAPOR conference 2022 in Dubai, UAE 

The World Association for Public Opinion Research, WAPOR, is an international professional association for survey research whose members recognise the centrality of public opinion in shaping and serving society. The 75th edition of WAPOR’s annual conference was held in Dubai, UAE, from November 10 to 13, 2022. Our founding partner Steve Dept contributed to one of the sessions on the challenges of comparative research and international surveys. In his presentation, “Anticipating culture-driven perception shifts in 3MC surveys” (see photo below), Steve explained how to identify, resolve or mitigate cultural perception shifts that can affect the comparability of data with a quality assurance translation design that includes a translatability assessment, before translation even begins (see our article on his presentation at this link).

The conference broached many subjects, including the expansion of WAPOR coverage, cross-cultural issues, new technologies, public opinion manipulation, current and future challenges to the polling industry. Many of the sessions were related to the impact of recent geopolitical events on the polling industry. Steve and Devasmita, cApStAn’s Business Development and Marketing Lead, said they enjoyed three days packed with insights, content, case studies, new research questions, data and, of course, friendship. “It was great to meet in person with people who have been working with us for some years now. We have learnt incredibly much during those three days, and are proud to be part of this group that strives to make polls scientific endeavours”.

Expansion of WAPOR

The conference provided the opportunity for the official launch of WAPOR SSA (Sub-Saharan Africa), with a great talk by Angela Ambitho, Founder and CEO of infotrak research and consulting, Kenya. Ambitho pointed out to the fact that polling is still young in this region and trust is low, so that big challenges still lie ahead (see photo below)

Cross-cultural issues

The expansion of WAPOR’s coverage was the object of an interesting panel discussion which highlighted the need for more cross-cultural studies and more multilingual documents.

Claudia Pato de Carvalho, from the Centre for Social Studies, Universidade de Coimbra, Portugal also looked at cross-cultural issues during a session in which she presented a mixed methodological approach to address cross-cultural divisions (see photo below).

Impact of technology

A panel discussion which included René Bautista, Ph.D., NORC at the University of Chicago, USA, analysed how technology has changed public opinion polling in past decades and how it will impact the future (see photo below).

The influence of deepfake technology on public perception and sharing intentions of political and non-political content was discussed by Saifuddin Ahmed, Nanyang Technological University Singapore Technological University, Singapore. Those previously exposed are more likely to believe the fabricated claim in the deepfake, says Saifuddin Ahmed.

Manipulation of public opinion

Pippa Norris, acclaimed author and Harvard political scientist, pointed out to the dangers of “credulous” trust and the importance of scepticism in a world full of seductive demagogues playing on our insecurities and manipulating our fears. “Trust but verify” (see photo below).

Researchers Saifuddin Ahmed, from the Nanyang Technological University Singapore and Yifei Wang, from the National University of Singapore) spoke about how “selective exposure” to information can enhance partisan bias via identity arousal, emotional contagion or cognitive reappraisal and is positively associated with polarisation of public opinion.

The COVID-19 pandemic

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on polling, and in particular on the modes of delivery, was presented by Andrew Cleary, from Ipsos UK, with particular reference to how the 7th edition of the European Working Conditions survey needed to be adapted to the new circumstances (see photo below).

Polling in war zones

Recent world conflicts, and in particular the Ukraine war, were the focus of a number of presentations:

  • Challenges in conducting surveys in war zones, with reference to the remote Humanitarian Relief survey (John Murunga DipM, MCIMGeoPoll)
  • Public opinion on the Ukraine war (Dina Smeltz, Council on Global Affairs, USA)
  • Reliability of polling results in times of war (Yulia BaskakovaLanger Research Associates)
  • Humanitarian direct consequences of the Ukraine war (Elena KonevaExtremeScan)
  • Influence of opinion polls on policymaking, with particular reference to Finland’s changing attitude towards NATO membership (Juko Rakhonen PhD, from independent market research company Taloustutkimus Oy, see photo below).

Language as identity

This was the title of an interesting panel discussion which addressed the renewed demand to have Hindi as the national language in India, where only 44% of Indians are native Hindi speakers, and the strong opposition this is facing from states where the majority speaks languages other than Hindi (see photo below).

Future of the industry

David Jodice PhD, Founder and CEO of D3 Systems, talked about what he perceives as the main the threats to polling: 1) government actions/regulations 2) fear of government actions, leading to self-censorship 3) growing difficulties in conducting/reporting opinion polls (see photo below).

Cover photo

From top left, clockwise: President Timothy Johnson, University of Illinois, Chicago, USA, introducing the 75th WAPOR conference; presentation of the new WAPOR South-Sahara Africa; speaker Angela Ambitho, Founder and CEO of infotrak research and consulting, Kenya; Steve Dept and Devasmita Ghosh; slide by Angela Ambitho showing how the same poll can lead to very different interpretations in the media; Steve Dept with David Jodice PhD, Founder and CEO at D3 Systems, Inc.; presentation on impact of polling on policy making by Juko Rakhonen PhD, from the independent market research company Taloustutkimus Oy; view of Dubai. Photo at center: Steve Dept during his presentation on “Anticipating culture-driven perception shifts in 3MC surveys”. Photo collage by Graphillus, Milan, Italy.