In the lead up to the conference, students and researchers from colleges and universities across the National Capital Region were invited to participate in the WAPOR Workshops Day on Public Opinion Polling during times of conflict.
The first session was undertaken by Dr. Holli A. Semetko, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Media and International Affairs at Emory University, USA. Through the examples of the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom, as well as the 2016 Presidential Elections in the United States, Dr. Semetko highlighted the characteristics of campaigning in the fourth era of political communication, one that corresponds with the digital age. These include the switch to online communication, the rise of social media, and the globalisation of the campaign industry.
Dr. Robert Chung, the Director of the Public Opinion Programme (POP) at The University of Hong Kong, conducted the second workshop of the day. Calling back to the history and development of public protests as ways of purporting the values of democracy and self-determination, Dr. Chung highlighted how recent public opinion polls and surveys conducted after the Umbrella Revolution included the use of digital media, and therefore the value of scientific development as a vessel for a more globalised mobilisation of various communities.
The third workshop was led by Dr. Colin Irwin, Research Fellow at the Department of Politics, University of Liverpool. As an expert on public opinion, peace polling and public diplomacy, Dr. Irwin spoke about his experiences of running public opinion polls in areas of conflict across the world; including Northern Ireland, Syria, Palestine and Israel, Sri Lanka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Sudan. Highlighting the politics of the timing, funding, publication and the interests of the commissioning agencies involved in these polling processes, Dr. Irwin brought to the fore the sensitive nature of running these polls in conflict areas.
Dr. Pradeep Peires, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Colombo, led the fourth session on the public opinion polling processes in the aftermath of the Sri Lankan Civil War. Pointing to the use of survey methods, Dr. Peires highlighted that the ongoing reconciliation process is only effective so far as it includes everyone, not only the elite, in the shift to a peaceful society.
Dr. Syed Arabi Idid, a Professor of Communication at the International Islamic University in Malaysia, led the penultimate workshop on the theme of public opinion and elections in Malaysia. Contextualising the country’s political landscape, from colonial rule to the democratic elections held between 1959 and 2018, Dr. Idid highlighted the variables which influence voting patterns, including media use, leader attributes and public image and the voter’s own views on economic and socio-cultural issues.
The last session of the day was led by Team C-Voter founder, Yashwant Deshmukh. Showcasing the results from public opinion surveys undertaken in Jammu & Kashmir, the only one which also included Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Leh in its purview, Mr. Deshmukh highlighted the intricacies and challenges in undertaking such a task given the diversity and sensitive nature of the region within the sub-continent, and across the world.