Public space of the trustworthiness of sociological knowledge: The case of electoral research

stmm. 2020 (3): 13-32

DOI https://doi.org/10.15407/sociology2020.03.013

OLEKSANDR STEGNII, Doctor of Sciences in Sociology, Leading Research Fellow at the Department of Methodology and Methods of Sociology, Institute of Sociology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (12, Shovkovychna St., Kyiv, 01021)

o.stegniy@gmail.com.

https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7829-127X

The paper analyses specific features of sociological data circulation in a public space during an election campaign. The basic components of this kind of space with regard to sociological research are political actors (who put themselves up for the election), voters and agents. The latter refer to professional groups whose corporate interests are directly related to the impact on the election process. Sociologists can also be seen as agents of the electoral process when experts in the field of electoral sociology are becoming intermingled with manipulators without a proper professional background and publications in this field. In a public space where an electoral race is unfolding, empirical sociological research becomes the main form of obtaining sociological knowledge, and it is primarily conducted to measure approval ratings. Electoral research serves as an example of combining the theoretical and empirical components of sociological knowledge, as well as its professional and public dimensions. Provided that sociologists meet all the professional requirements, electoral research can be used as a good tool for evaluating the trustworthiness of results reflecting the people’s expression of will. Being producers of sociological knowledge, sociologists act in two different capacities during an election campaign: as analysts and as pollsters. Therefore, it is essential that the duties and areas of responsibility for professional sociologists should be separated from those of pollsters. Another thing that needs to be noted is the negative influence that political strategists exert on the trustworthiness of survey findings which are going to be released to the public. Using the case of approval ratings as an illustration, the author analyses the most common techniques aimed at misrepresenting and distorting sociological data in the public space. Particular attention is given to the markers that can detect bogus polling companies, systemic violations during the research process and data falsification.

Key words: the trustworthiness of sociological knowledge, election researches, public space, electoral agents, pollsters, election campaign, manipulative technologies, pseudo-sociologists, invalid data markers

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Received 17.06.2020