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Public Opinion Polling and Health Legislation


Opinion polls play an important role in the formulation of crucial public policies in various regions in the world. Perlstadt and Holmes’ article, The Role of Public Opinion Polling in Health Legislation, shows how the public health sector in Michigan and Los Angeles employed public opinion polls’ results in the formulation of laws as well as policies governing smoking in the mentioned states. The authors’ major concern was to substantiate the findings of researchers in verifying that researchers’ stakes did not influence their findings. The authors based their argument on findings of various research groups derived from the response of the public to the involvement of government forces in controlling the use of tobacco products.

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Article Critique

The article gives a detailed account of the scrutiny that legislators subject public opinion polls’ results before making major decisions that affect the majority in society. The authors argue that not all opinion results are trustworthy as they may be mere figures that hold no truth. This argument acts as the basis for the rest of the article as the authors critically give the analysis of the findings of various research surveys over a similar subject. According to Gruce and Wakefield, different groups of researchers dealing with the same subject would formulate their research to meet their specific interests (2004, p.102), and the article gives a clearer picture of this fact. The Institute for Social Research formulated research questions that allowed respondents to give results based on their concern for their health. On the other hand, the Marketing Research group Inc. formulated its research questions in a manner to get public support in expanding the sales of tobacco products. Given that these two firms carried out their research in the same locality, legislators had to carry out some thorough investigations on the research process, which the authors of the article put into consideration.

The article gives a detailed analysis of not only the results of the opinion polls but also the research techniques that the various researchers used. This analysis is instrumental in assisting legislators in understanding the differences that characterize most opinion polls (Bradford & Schneiderman, 2007, p.98). Perlstadt and Holmes’ justification of these differences is palpable beyond words. They point out that the type and order of questions used in any research survey have a significant influence on the response of the respondents. The details of a research survey should be stored safely for future reference (Heeks & Bailor, 2007, p.253). The article gives an illustration of this fact, as the legislators had to go through the survey procedure of each of the research firms. As a result, the Centre for Health Promotion of the Michigan Department for Public Health supported ISR’s report since it could substantiate its findings with written copies of the telephone interview protocols. If anything, legislators require valid results to make informed decisions.

However, the article presents some weaknesses. For one to compare the results of survey research reports, the research methodologies should present some similarities. In this case, the authors picked on research findings of different research firms that had different scopes of their audience. The firms also did not apply a similar technique of gathering information from their respondents, and if so, it is not clear in the article. In addition, the article does not give a hypothesis of any of the research surveys carried out by several research firms. Hypothesizing research work is essential as it allows proper analysis of the research findings (Barzelay, 2001, p.45). In the analysis of research results, it is important to give the analytical criteria employed, yet the article does not incorporate the method of analysis.


The article gives a clear illustration of how legislators should subject research findings to professional scrutiny before using them as the basis for making important decisions in society. A professional piece of work can act as a guide not only in the public health sector but also in other sectors in the United States. However, the article overlooks some aspects as far as the comparison of different research results is concerned.

Reference List

Barzelay, M. (2001). The New Public Management: Improving Research and Policy Dialogue. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Bradford, W. H., & Schneiderman, B. (2007). Health Research from the User’s Perspective. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 32(5), 97-102.

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Gruce, T. S., & Wakefield, D. S. (2004). Promise and Progress. Journal of Business Research, 57(9), 102-105.

Heeks, R., & Bailor, S. (2007). Analyzing government Research: Perspectives, Philosophies, Theories, Methods and Practice. Government Information Quarterly, 24(2), 243-264.

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