The McKinnon Poll Research Program aims to encourage better policymaking by providing a richer and more in-depth understanding of public opinion as an input into the policymaking process. It does this by commissioning high quality public opinion research on topics that are of significant policy interest, but where there is potentially a gap between actual public opinion and policymakers’ understanding of public opinion.
What we’re working to achieve
When making decisions on matters of public interest, policymakers should be informed by robust research and data.
The Program was established to commission high quality public opinion research on topics that are of significant policy interest, but where there is likely to be a gap between actual public opinion and policymakers’ understanding of public opinion.
The ultimate goal of the Program is to encourage better policymaking by providing a richer and more in-depth understanding of public opinion as an input into the policymaking process.
The Program’s intended impact is to:
- Give a stronger voice to public opinion in policymaking, in a constructive way.
- Drive better policymaking through greater insight into which policy options might be acceptable, unacceptable, or require greater communication or education of the community.
- Negate the impact of vested interests influencing policy making by making claims about public opinion that are not backed by evidence.
How we are doing it
The Program is a pilot testing whether and how independent public opinion research, driven by a rigorous approach to topic identification and selection, is useful to policymakers. It also looks at the ways such research improves the quality of policy debate and decision making by better informing policymakers on public opinion on relevant topics at the right time.
The Program tests whether different ways of polling develop a more nuanced understanding of public opinion is of real value to policymakers. These approaches have been refined over time to include:
- Testing the strength of views;
- Testing the level of knowledge behind those views;
- Providing context and testing the impact on responses; and
- Presenting trade-offs and asking respondents to choose between a limited number of options.
There are two phases to the Program:
- Phase 1 of the Program was a research pilot program funded by the Susan McKinnon Foundation and undertaken through the newDemocracy Foundation in 2021. The initial pilot indicated an appetite for, and interest in, such research from policymakers at both state and federal level.
- Phase 2, currently live, is an extended pilot program. In this current Phase, the Foundation seeks to refine the methodology and establish the impact of systematic, independent, and high-quality public opinion research on policy dialogue, policy development and government decision-making in Australia.
The Foundation consulted widely with stakeholders to identify pertinent topics that would benefit from high quality public opinion research. These topics were scoped and researched before commissioning qualitative (focus group) and quantitative (opinion poll) research. The results are then shared with stakeholders and published.
A rigorous process of performance review and evaluation is undertaken at the end of each poll cycle to assess and determine opportunities for improvement.
Research undertaken to date as part of this program includes:
- Electoral reform, December 2022
- Understanding attitudes towards social support in Australia, September 2022
- Social media use and regulation in Australia, November 2021
- Attitudes to COVID 19 Budget Repair, November 2021
- Road safety regulation, October 2021
The McKinnon Poll Research Program is uniquely independent, non-partisan and non-advocacy based. The McKinnon Foundation’s approach differs from polling traditionally relied on by policymakers, which tends to test existing theories rather than gain insight into views that inform policy design itself.
What makes our Program different from other polling:
- The inquiry-based approach of the Program: instead of starting with a preconceived agenda or view, we look to expert opinion and public attitudes to shape the focus of the research.
- The Program’s sample size is larger (3,000 people), and therefore of a higher quality than that typically used in other commercial or advocacy opinion polling (800–1,000 people).
- The Program’s poll design includes questions that seek to test real world trade offs and to test support and opinion in context, allowing for a more credible and realistic view.
- The independence of the Program: our polling is done free of an agenda , increasing trust and making customers more willing to share.
Together, these differentiators make the Program unique, providing more value to stakeholders, and giving a stronger voice for public opinion in policy making.