Perception surveys are widely used in OECD countries, and are increasingly used in developing countries and in fragile and conflict affected states (FCAS). Some results of these surveys have been published, and are publicly available. However, many perception surveys are not published due to sensitivities around the questions and data collected.
Perception surveys measure what respondents believe, think or feel and can produce information about: (a) Knowledge; (b) Experiences; (c) Beliefs and values; (d) Attitudes and opinions; and (e) Expectations. There are a number of challenges in the design, interpretation and use of perception survey findings. These are particularly acute in FCAS.
The key strengths of using perception surveys in FCAS include: measuring the intangible; a form of citizen-state communication; rebalancing information asymmetries; challenging un-evidenced stereotypes; quick, cost-effective and extensive data gathering method; focussing on citizen opinion, rather than expert opinion; and the monitoring of state-society relations over time.
The key limitations of using perception surveys in FCAS include: the reliability of the data; representativeness (especially in relation to accessibility, gender inequality and representation); interpreting the complexity of findings; different types of biases; understanding that perception surveys measure perceptions only; and accountability.
The key methodological issues to consider to ensure quality of perception surveys in FCAS include: triangulation of data; timing; sequencing and phrasing of questions; in-country analysis; longitudinal analysis; stakeholder views of survey instruments in the design period; pilot tests; and practical quality checks.