Although public opinion research can make a valuable contribution to movement organizing, it is a relatively untested technique in many new and emerging democracies, notes Lauren Kitz, a Program Officer for Citizen Participation at The National Democratic Institute, where her work focuses on the political inclusion of marginalized populations. In many cases where NDI has helped introduce research, it has been the first time local partners have had access to reliable or nuanced data on their given issue, she writes for Open Democracy:
In Tunisia, NDI conducted focus group research on citizens’ attitudes towards the political transition immediately following the overthrow of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Since public opinion research on political attitudes was prohibited under Ben Ali’s rule, the information gleaned was unprecedented. Following the research, NDI partnered with local civil society organizations to hold roundtables throughout the country where political party leaders and civic activists could discuss the findings together. Discussions about the data enabled the activists to refer to real-life examples and build their credibility; meanwhile, it set the stage for a more collaborative relationship with political leaders.