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From Fubara David-West:
This is a refreshing revision of the dogma about the status of public opinion in authoritarian polities. The point is that the ability of the regimes in these societies to sustain themselves is dependent both on some level of segmented public support, especially among disaffected publics, and on politically quiescent populations. Furthermore, my analysis of the military era and its politics in "The Real Life of Military Politics" revolves around the idea that an authoritarian regime must always contend with rival political forces, which also want to impose themselves on society. One of the ways in which the intra-regime struggle for power finds a broader political outlet, is through the use of policies that appeal to some level of the society as a whole. That appeal, in effect, creates public opinion around those policies and on the very question as to whether society is better served by an oligarchic regime, than by a democratic government, with a questionable history with regard to efficiency, law and order, equity policy implementation.
I'd like to share an additional comment on Cale Horne's essay, particular to the value of public opinion analysis in transitional states, and drawing on my experience managing democracy and governance programs in Iraq -- perhaps more aptly considered a post-conflict state, but the process of D&G is not unlike the post-Soviet state experience to which Horne alludes. In the Iraqi context, public opinion analysis played a key role in recent electoral processes, including provincial elections (January 2009), KRG (July 2009), and the national parliamentary elections of March 2010. The opinion analysis informed political parties on their constituents' mood, priorities, and preferred candidate characteristics without regard to party affiliation. Public opinion polls also factored into topic selection for town halls and informed media coverage of the electoral contests. As Iraq's leadership and citizens work to consolidate democratic gains, public opinion analysis can continue to play a role, guiding platforms and legislative agendas and constituent services of Members of Parliament, political parties, and caucuses. At the provincial level, Provincial Council Members can make use public opinion polls as one tool to improve responsiveness to their constituents. Success factors from the Iraqi experience include reliance on focus groups and deep interviews to test questions and to better understand findings of survey data; investment in training of Iraqis to facilitate focus groups and conduct survey interviews; and, depending on the intended use of the survey data, sample sizes sufficient to provide provincial-level breakouts.