Disclaimer : This outline is open to discussion. It is not meant to be the only, or the best, answer to this question
Stand : Yes, they do
(1) Some people hold the view that polls and surveys can help decision makers gather opinions to decide what to do next i.e. polls and surveys are proactive.
(2) However, despite the function that polls are used for, the reality is there is a limit to how useful polls can be : FLAWS in surveys
a. Is it representative?
b. How was it conducted? Format : open-ended, multiple choice, range
c. Were the questions free from bias, or were they skewed ?
d. Were the respondents truthful?
e. In addition to the criticisms of the survey construction process, the data could still be misinterpreted even if the polls or surveys are properly carried out
(3) Interestingly, some of these flaws can actually be manipulated to suit the aims of poll-makers because polls and surveys are meant to sway opinions to garner support.
a. Use guided, skewed questions
b. Timeliness of the survey & the release of the results
c. Polls and surveys can be reactive e.g. to draw out the views of the silent majority over the vocal minority, if there is a hunch that the views of the silent majority will benefit the poll-maker
(5) Polls & surveys give the perception of choice or democracy to the advantage of those who wish to influence
HOWEVER, there is no guarantee that the results of the polls and surveys will actually be used to create the change that people want to see. But at least, the people are made to feel that they are engaged or involved.
Furthermore, the lack of resources could also be an obstacle to actually putting survey results into action … So in the end, the people’s desires as expressed by the surveys are still not met.