Commentary | 01 June 2010

What makes us tick?

In this challenging essay, Program Director for Polling Fergus Hanson looks at the quirky history of scientific opinion polling and the role polls play in foreign policy. He suggests two key functions: to subtly serve the stability of the international system and to function as a mirror to our actions and image abroad.

The essay, 'What makes us tick? Polling and international understanding' was published in the Griffith Review, Issue 30, 2010 in the Annual Fiction Edition.

  • Fergus Hanson

In this challenging essay, Program Director for Polling Fergus Hanson looks at the quirky history of scientific opinion polling and the role polls play in foreign policy. He suggests two key functions: to subtly serve the stability of the international system and to function as a mirror to our actions and image abroad.

The essay, 'What makes us tick? Polling and international understanding' was published in the Griffith Review, Issue 30, 2010 in the Annual Fiction Edition.

  • Fergus Hanson

Key Findings

  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt used to dip his hand into a barrel of letters and select one at random to gauge prevailing sentiment.
  • It was only in the 1930s that scientific opinion polling was developed, but by 1939, FDR was using it to help inform his foreign policy strategy.
  • The Australian Government has not integrated opinion polling into its foreign policy to the same extent as other countries.