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In Defence of Focus Groups – “The Unfinished Revolution: How New Labour Changed British Politics Forever” – Philip Gould

January 11th, 2012 · No Comments · Campaigning, Democracy, Electoralism, Political Communication, Politics, Progressive Politics, UK Labour, United Kingdom

Despite the small numbers sampled, and the obvious lack of empirical rigour they entail, focus groups are the form of polling that I prefer. Although their scientific validity is less than that of an opinion poll, they are in a sense truer because you can talk to people as they really are, not as abstractions captured in a single moment. You gain access to real people with ideas and opinions that connect both to the past and to the future, who do not care much or at all about politics, and who think at one and the same time at many different levels. The complexity of public opinion reflects the complexity of politics; people have paradoxical views and opinions that cannot be reduced to easy choices or one-dimensional solutions. At its best a focus group is a place where you can dig beneath the surface and feel the forces gathering below.

Gould’s (positive) view of Focus Groups is far more nuanced than the hostile views of many who oppose them…

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