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Power to the People. Power to the Facts!

Irina Dimitriade shares her views on what has been a turbulent few weeks in Western politics, and the implications for market researchers in a “post-truth” society.

It’s been an “interesting” few weeks. The most important administration in the Western world is now governed by a man whose favourite words are ‘You’re fired!’, and the world seems to be turning on its head.

The past few weeks, however, have also given me some renewed hope, which had been ebbing away following the Brexit vote. That hope comes from the courageous people who have defied the wind, rain and snow, and showed that, when we gather in huge numbers, we matter and we make a difference!

What's Happening?

The Women's March saw around two million people taking to the streets of the USand hundreds of thousands all over the world, protesting against the new administration and empowering all of us to stand up, as is our democratic right. Power was in the numbers!

The following week, the controversial US “travel ban” came to pass, and airports were invaded with activists, volunteer lawyers and everyday people who see humanity beyond borders and walls. These many people, from many different backgrounds, put pressure on their elected officials, raised money and contributed to the successful efforts of releasing some of those detained. Once again, power was in the numbers!

Trump protests

And on Monday evening the streets of the UK were filled with people unwilling to appease the US president, who believe tough love should be part of the special relationship. This includes those who have been empowered by the Women's march and the airport protests to take a stand on the streets of the UK. Power, again, was in the numbers!

Without wanting to get too political, I want to explain why this is relevant for a market research blog. Quite simply, those numbers are facts! They are individual expressions of opinion that cannot be denied and cannot be argued!

Or can they? I keep thinking back to the ‘£350 million to the NHS’ on the side of the Leave Campaign bus, and how arguable that simple figure was.

A Post-Truth Society

It's been said for a while now, we seem to be living in a post-truth society, where hard facts can be misused and misrepresented to benefit a privileged few. A recent article I read showed how statistics is losing ground because of those 'alternative fact-twisters'. On the one hand you have the 'experts', who bring the scientific data to the table, and on the other, you have the 'denialists', who use manipulative, emotional arguments to deny actual facts (like, you know, climate change being a Chinese hoax!) Somehow, against all odds, the latter seem to be winning in some quarters. Who would have thought we'd ever get here?!

As market researchers, we work with facts and data every day. We know and understand the rigour involved in collecting and analysing data, we uphold a duty of care to research buyers and participants, and we don't take facts for granted. Processes, procedures and codes of ethics are in place to make sure we are in position to learn and communicate truths!

Where Do We Come In?

As market researchers, we know that every recommendation has to be based on data or other solid evidence. We know that the power is in the facts! Insight cannot be invented, and fact twisting would be unprofessional and unethical. This is our industry truth. We know it, our clients know it, our respondents and participants know it!

A “post-truth society” does present challenges, but it seems to me that it also brings with it a moment of awakening! Every action has a reaction, and our reaction has to be to make our voices heard – the power is in the facts! Bang that drum until the fact-twisters are defeated and the truths that we work so tirelessly to uncover get the attention and respect they deserve.

Power is in the facts! Now I definitely know what my next protest sign will say!