Contested Social Attitudes

The social and political world is full of contested attitudes!  In any given group or society we may share a number of values, attitudes and behaviours that we often take completely for granted, other issues are always in conflict and are actively contested.  Often both sides of the debate can be motivated by similar values and concerns for social order and well-being, but expressed through different assumptions and shaped by different experiences.  It is these contested attitudes that are most interesting to study because they do highlight the importance of the underlying values and assumptions that we hold in various groups and society as a whole.

We take a particularly contextual approach to studying these contested attitudes.  While some researchers might be interested in the abortion debate, for example, and focus all their attention on that one issue, we take the view that many contested attitudes do point to some common underlying assumptions about the nature of our society and social world, and we are trying to consider each issue in that broader context.

To do that we run a range of research studies which have two layers to them:

  1. We measure people’s views about a wide representative sample of attitudes to provide a common context for our analysis.  We are developing a multi-dimensional model of these representative issues. We sample a range of views including:
      • Abortion
      • Euthanasia
      • Immigration (general and specific groups)
      • Particular groups of racial or ethnic origin
      • Views about gender roles and rights
      • Rights of lesbians and gay men
      • Various stigmatised groups
      • Approaches to welfare
      • Taxation
      • Law and order
  2. In addition, each study has one or two more detailed issues that are a focus. We might for example focus on attitudes to gay marriage / civil unions; immigration policy; preferences for different kinds of national leadership, or approaches to law and order concerns; health issues like the use of complementary and alternative medicines and so on.

By having this two-tier approach we can make sure that we have a chance to delve into particular issues in more depth and give people a chance to express their views in more subtle ways.  At the same time we can put views on the focal issue(s) into a broader context of social debate, but while keeping any particular research survey to a reasonable length.

How can you help?

To explore the nature of contested social attitudes, we need people to help us with our research.  We run a variety of studies looking at different combinations of the issues we raise above.

You can:

  • Participate in the available studies whenever you have spare time and interest.  Keep this site bookmarked and look out for suitable studies from our active studies list or look out for studies we run through various online panels companies.