And Yet It Does Exist! The 50th Anniversary of P. Bourideu’s Report “Public Opinion Does Not Exist”

And Yet It Does Exist! The 50th Anniversary of P. Bourideu’s Report “Public Opinion Does Not Exist”

Vyalykh N.А.

Cand. Sci. (Sociol.), Assoc. Prof., Institute of Sociology and Regional Studies, Southern Federal University, Rostov-on-Don, Russia

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Vyalykh N.А. And Yet It Does Exist! The 50th Anniversary of P. Bourideu’s Report “Public Opinion Does Not Exist”. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2021. No 4. P. 118-126


The article discusses sociological activity in the context of 50th anniversary of P. Bourdieu’s insightful report “Public opinion does not exist”. The basic points of the P. Bourdieu’s argumentation amounting to tendentiousness, artificiality and political partisanship of public opinion are questioned. P. Bourdieu argues that surveys are far too simplistic to tell us anything about public opinion and this can be seen in the averaged estimates made up of numbers and statistics. Although P. Bourdieu does not believe that survey procedures are totally invalid, he asserts that media and policymakers completely misinterpret the process and results of public opinion pools. The key idea of the present paper is that attention to methodological problems of public opinion research may help increase the collective capital of the symbolic power of sociological science in Russia and elsewhere. Main difficulties to conceptualizing public opinion are related to methodological “multifamily” in modern sociological theory and to pluralism of socio-political life. Besides, sociological polemics about public opinion are associated with the opposites between researchers’ and pollsters’ approaches. Researchers are basically satisfied with a concept of public opinion which might be described not only as an object, but also as a method of sociological analysis of social reality. According to pollsters’ position, public opinion is what is measured by quantitative surveys of target social groups. The article argues that some developments in survey practices include new thinking about how to recruit respondents, new methods for field control, and new approaches to reducing of the statistical error. At the same time, in the light of current theoretical disputes and taking into account Russian and global socio-political conditions, a need to ceaselessly defend scholarly status of sociology is emphasized.

P. Bourideu; public opinion; methodology; sociological activity; surveys


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