Public opinion research giving a voice to global citizens

For NAFSA’s 2012 Annual Conference, which I am currently attending in Houston, Texas, institutions were invited to submit a video showing how their international education initiatives promote peace and justice through bridging cultural boundaries, contributing to global health and development, encouraging environmental sustainability and helping prepare global ready graduates.

I found the submission by the Department of Urban, Rural and Environmental Planning at La Trobe University, Australia, particularly interesting. La Trope students worked with students from the University of Moratuwa, carrying out in-street public opinion surveys to gather data about the views of local residents with regards to the rapid development of their town.

The goal was to understand the priorities of citizens, and the extent to which these matched up to the policies and budget priorities of the provincial government in Moratuwa. The surveys gave the universities, as well as local community groups and leaders, the ability to present decision-makers with information which will help them to ensure that future planning reflects the wishes of Moratuwa citizens.

As a public opinion researcher, I appreciated the reminder of the social good that our industry can bring in giving voice to citizens, putting pressure on community leaders, politicians and bureaucrats to take notice of the priorities of local people.