Public Opinion Research before 1989: at the Request of Science, State Apparatus and Public

The article deals with the public opinion research before 1989 in then Czechoslovakia. The most important public opinion re- search institution of its time is the subject of discussed analysis, i.e. The Institute for Public Opinion Research, which operated in the framework of several institutional arrangements during the period 1946 to 1990 (in the 1970s also with the name changed to the Public Opinion Research Cabinet).

In the text, we focus on the role of public opinion research from its beginnings in 1946 until 1989, in relation to the state or party apparatus, the public and science. The structure of the analyzed relations re- flects Burawoy’s conception of different types of “doing soci- ology”, the division based on who the sociologists are talking   to and with what purpose. Burawoy distinguishes between professional and critical sociology, where sociologists speak to their colleagues either instrumentally, using established con- cepts and procedures (public sociology) or in an effort to reflect on and critique these procedures (critical sociology). Both of these types relate to our analysis of the academic dimension   of opinion polls. On the other hand, there is policy sociology, which instrumentally solves the problems of clients (whether from the public, state or private spheres) and public sociology, which communicates with society and contributes to public discourse. These types of sociological operation can be related to how we try to describe the relation of opinion polls to the state apparatus (which commissioned and controlled the research) and the public (which was not only researched, but at least in some periods the researchers also aimed to inform the public about the results). These relations changed, intensified and weakened in various parts of      the period, as the political context in particular moments changed, but also, for example, the interest of sociological institutions in conducting public opinion  polls.

Commercial aspects were of little importance to the Czechoslovak public opinion research before 1989, but its position can be defined by describing the changing relations of this re- search to political / state power, the public and academia. Political power, its restrictions and the content of research assignments, had a very strong effect throughout the period we are focusing on, but the strictness of control varied considerably in different periods. One of the indicators of the intensity of this control was the relations of the research institution to the public.

In periods of less intensive control (1946-1947, 1967-1968, to some extent also the second half of the 1980s), it was possible to publish the results of research in professional press and mass media. At the same time, from the beginning of the research in 1946, throughout the time when the research was carried out, certain academic aspirations appeared among the researchers (manifested by the authorship of professional articles, especially methodological ones and participation in professional discourse in   general).

The text is based on the synthesis of already published publications on the history of pub- lic opinion research, on the analysis of preserved materials and on the interviews with main actors of the public opinion research in the  past.

ISSN: 1214-438X
Year: 2020
Edition: 18
Volume: 1
Page: 11
Authors: Martin Vávra, Tomáš Čížek
Citation: Čížek, Tomáš, Martin Vávra. 2020. ,,Výzkum veřejného mínění před rokem 1989: služba vědě, státnímu aparátu a veřejnosti’’. Naše společnost 18 (1): 11‒31.


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