67.2 Scepticism, selectivity and subjective wellbeing: Political interests and survey measures in the UK

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 11:00 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Jacqueline SCOTT , Sociology , University of Cambridge , Cambridge , United Kingdom
This paper presents, as an illustrative case study, the UK Government's 2011-2012 endeavours to monitor social progress in the UK.   The Coalition Government commissioned  the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to develop appropriate well-being measures.   This case study illuminates the conflicting interests and compromise positions that have been manifest  in the development and implementation of the survey measures.     The study relies on three main sources:   1) the evidence that was presented to ONS to help the design and development of the survey measures;  2) newspaper coverage of the national quest  for wellbeing measures;  and 3) the presentation of initial “findings” and caveats concerning their interpretation.     The paper argues that selectivity issues plague the UK's national endeavour to address social progress and the well-being agenda.  These selection effects help promote a pronounced scepticism amongst the press and wider public.   The question is then raised as to whether  policy measures could influence people’s conceptions and evaluations  of  social progress and wellbeing, and whether such  policy efforts would be beneficial and desirable. The case study has relevance far beyond the UK, and we consider how the European Social Survey may face similar challenges as it seeks to introduce societal wellbeing measures, across Europe.