Public officials and institutions are involved daily in various processes that affect the country and its citizens. These processes are political in the sense that various stakeholders may want to influence the functioning or outcome of a process, and citizens want their views and needs represented and included. Political processes begin from electoral campaigns and extend through legislation and the implementation of government policies, decisions and programs.

Surveys and Selection Bias

Surveys, focus group discussions and online forms are useful for data collection and can be leveraged for advocacy. Simple surveys can provide basic information about citizen needs and interests, and national surveys using representative sampling methodologies can capture snapshots of public opinion. Legislators can use that information to shape policies that reflect the respondents’ priorities. Additionally, the information can become the basis for dialogues or public forums that foster more direct citizen-legislator and citizen-political party interactions. However, there is a risk that selection bias might skew the results of these tools. Surveys that don’t use random, representative samples might not represent the interests of all citizens. For example, a survey that uses a public webform to collect data will only represent the opinions of those with access to the internet. Similarly, women and marginalized groups are often unintentionally excluded from surveys because targeted outreach is required for these voices to be represented. Thus, findings might be useful to spur conversations but may carry risks if they are used as a basis for new policy. It is critical that the data collection methodology avoid selection bias and ensure inclusivity by surveying all available data and by making certain that surveys are representative of the broader population, e.g., with a public opinion poll,* or door-knocking with the original survey technology — pen and paper.

* Polling firms are usually needed to conduct public opinion polls, which are time consuming and involve complex statistical analysis.


The remainder of this section explores the five types of political process monitoring by broadly describing each type’s purpose and approach.