UG Political Science Department research; what went wrong and how to fix it

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 Source: Peter Boamah Otokunor

I have listened to Head of Department of the Political Science Department, Dr. Eric Bossman on the research report prepared by the department on theme Democratic Governance in Ghana: What the Voters’ Say about the NPP Government. I have subsequently read the full report and have a few thoughts to share.

First of all, I want to congratulate and commend the Department for the initiative and the subsequent broadcast of the research findings. Indeed, this is the rightful role of the academia in any serious society; to apply knowledge towards the advancement of the course of human development as well as sustainable socio-economic and democratic development.

What was rather striking though, was the visibly missing well defined research methodology, which was used in achieving the set objectives of assessing what the Voters think or say about the NPP government.

Indeed, standard research practice dictates the process of research reporting; which involves the statement of detailed sample technique, how the questionnaires were administered, as well as the analytical tools used and the conceptual methods employed. All these crucial elements are currently missing from the discourse, making it very difficult to efficiently analyse and utilize the research results.

I have observed the following flaws and have a few mind-bothering questions for the researchers of the department who worked on this project;

One: Was the sample size of 5000 respondents taken from all the 275 constituencies in Ghana? If Yes, what was the various disaggregated scores/results on the key questions for each constituency or region? If No, how was the sample targeted? We should bear in mind the distributive assumptions of the population and the fact that, the findings are supposed to be representative of the entire country.

Two: Was the question on the novel government policies open ended or closed ended (a few policies were mentioned for the respondents to choose from)? If it was not open ended, then I think it is rather curious, the reason behind the researchers choice of ‘Revival of NHIS’ and ‘Fight against Galamsey/illegal mining’ as novel policies (unique/new policies). These are in no way novel policies because this is not the first time a policy against illegal mining has been implemented in this country, indeed it has just been a continuation of a programme launched by the previous NDC administration. Besides that, the revival of NHIS cannot be considered a policy by the NPP. Available records show that the NHIS is on the verge of collapse and could completely crash in 2019, if nothing drastic is done to diversify the funding sources. This observation is contrary to how robust the scheme performed in 2016. And to consider the fact that revival of NHIS scored 34%, is even scarier.

Three: I wonder why the researchers would ask respondents whether they will give credit to government for establishing an Office of a Special Prosecutor, when that has been inherently addressed in an earlier question “Do you support the creation of the office of the Special Prosecutor? Which scored 64.5% for Yes and 13.5% for No.

Four: Concerning the question for the approval ratings (On the scale of 1- 10 how will you rate one year performance of the government?). I found your interpretation of the results a bit problematic; because from your results, it can also be argued that, if the median scale of 5 and below are considered as DISAPPROVAL, then 50.6% of the respondents actually DISAPPROVED the NPP govt. In my opinion the best approach to have cured this mischief, was to have applied an ordered choice questions such as Strongly Approve along a scale to strongly disapprove. In that case your scale would be clearly defined.

Five: Concerning the question of “If elections were held today which party would you vote for?”, I see a rather revealing results which indicate that about 10.6% of the respondents appear undecided. This is rightly so because individuals are assumed to vote on two patterns; for parties they belong to and for political leaders and/or policy alternatives. Now this results means that 10.6% of the respondents were neutrals who will make a choice on a political leader and/or policy alternatives, not based on parties and 52% of the respondents were NPP members who will not change their voting pattern. This angle of analysis will bring the whole sampling distribution into question. This probably could be the reason accounting for the biased results in most of the key political questions.

It is obvious from the results on the various economic indicators such as the economy, unemployment and living standards; most of the respondents were politically considerate in their response.

Six: While it is pretty obvious without any questions at all, that President John Dramani Mahama may get the nod to lead the NDC in 2020, if he decides to contest; your claim of 58% of the respondents indicating their choice for Former President Mahama, comes without the full results. Besides this revelation also contradicts your earlier conclusions on who the respondents claim will vote for if elections were conducted today. It is indeed curious to note that 58% of same respondents who claim will vote for the NPP if elections were held today, are the same respondents who will also opt for President Mahama to lead the NDC. I want to believe that, this particular aspect of the research would have performed better among NDC respondents rather than the kind of sample population used.

Finally, I think the initiative was a very useful one and should be encouraged among the academic and research community, but such works should be as much as possible conducted independently and carefully to minimize the amount of flaws and its attendant criticisms that may come with it.

Yours in the service of mother Ghana,

Columnist: Peter Boamah Otokunor

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