The GBS represents an indigenous initiative to develop a global intellectual community for the study of democracy by surveying ordinary citizens. The project’s agenda is built on the premises that public attitudes and orientations toward democracy are crucial to the process of political legitimacy and that political culture operates autonomously as a key factor mediating the impact of socio-economic modernization on the evolution of the political regime, particularly in democracies. Originally inspired by the Eurobarometer, which was funded in the 1970s to track mass attitudes in what was then the European Community, new regional barometers emerged, developing innovative approaches that are adapted to regions around the world undergoing rapid political and economic change. The GBS now cover six regions, including Africa (Afrobarometer), East and Southeast Asia (Asian Barometer), South Asia (South Asia Barometer), Central and South America (Latinobarómetro), the Middle East (Arab Barometer), and countries of former Soviet Union (Eurasia Barometer). As more regions join the GBS network, a standard approach is being established to ensure that data is comparable and reliable. Before the launch of the GBS in 2004, the survey instruments adopted by the different barometer surveys, while sharing the common research agenda of exploring citizens’ attitudes toward democracy, governance and political reform, were not strictly comparable due to differences in format and wording. Over the years, the GBS has established standardized questionnaire modules across regions, while also allowing regional barometers to retain their own region-specific items that reflected particular local concerns.
A further key feature of the GBS approach is that it breaks down public opinion into several subgroups. Although GBS data allow generalizations about the populations of whole countries, we find it much more useful to contrast the diverging responses of various individuals and groups. Analysts can disaggregate all GBS findings by gender, age, economic status, and a host of other demographic and attitudinal factors. As such, barometer surveys can distinguish precisely how different groups understand and pursue democracy, prosperity and human security. Also, GBS measures whether different people – including ethnic minorities and disadvantaged classes – think they have attained these goals.
Moreover, GBS results cast light on the reasons why underlying popular orientations change. Whereas at first glance, for instance, attitudes to democracy or development might seem to be a function of a gender gap, a closer examination will reveal that there are few innate distinctions between men and women that cannot be explained by the lack of access of women to formal education. Probing further, we may discover that even educational disadvantages can be partially overcome if an individual has a sense of responsibility for her own welfare or the will to become actively engaged in the wider world of public affairs. It is possible to arrive at such penetrating explanations – and thereby at more reliable policy recommendations – only via multivariate analysis of the sort of individual-level data generated by the GBS.
In our conception, there is a clear distinction between the GBS and other survey-based studies like the World Values Survey (WVS). Whereas the WVS addresses deep-seated, semi-permanent cultural values, the GBS is concerned with tracking emerging political and economic attitudes, which are often subject to rapid change. Hence, more a social weather report than an account of the social climate, the GBS is implemented on a tighter schedule (every 2-3 years) than the WVS (every 4-5 years).
The second objective is to strengthen institutional capacities for survey research in all participating countries. We address this objective principally through the mutual exchange of expertise, occasionally supplemented with technical training workshops. The GBS is made up of a diverse set of organizations, including university research institutes, private sector research teams, and non-governmental think-tanks. Each of these partners has distinctive skills, for example in the conceptualization of applied social science research problems, the organization of survey fieldwork, the management of large data sets, and the cultural interpretation of the survey results. The GBS fosters exchange of expertise by bringing partners together for planning and analysis at the national, regional, and global levels.
Finally, we aim to disseminate survey results to popular and policy audiences. The GBS reports take various forms and are directed to a wide assortment of users, including decision makers in legislative and executive branches of government, policy advocates and civic educators, journalists in the mass media, and researchers doing program evaluations of programs of good governance and socioeconomic development. In addition, as a reflection of “the voice of the people”– especially as public opinion is reported in the print press and radio news broadcasts – our surveys aim to help ordinary adults become better informed and more active citizens.
● Executive Board – composed of one representative from each regional barometer
The Executive Board provides leadership and makes decisions for the GBS, develops proposals for research and funding, plans and coordinates surveys according to a common schedule, and authorizes other actions, including delegating tasks to working groups. Below follows a list with the members of the executive board.
● Co-chairs of the executive board:
Director of Latinobarómetro
Director of Asian Barometer
Distinguished Research Fellow, Institute of Political Science, Academia Sinica / Academician, Academia Sinica
● Members of the executive board:
Director of Afrobarometer
Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Ghana, Legon.
Senior Advisor of Afrobarometer
Professor, Department of Political Studies, University of Cape Town.
Director of Arab Barometer
Senior Research Specialist, Princeton University Research Fellow, University of Michigan
Director of Eurasia Barometer
Research Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Vienna
Pro Vice Chancellor, Jain University National Coordinator, Lokniti Network
● Secretariat – deals with routine operations of the GBS network
The Secretariat is responsible for implementing the routine tasks of the GBS, including organizing meetings as well as workshops, managing the GBS merged data, publishing GBS reports, updating the GBS website, etc. The Secretariat was operated by the Latinobarómetro in Santiago until 2015. Since 2015, the Secretariat has rotated to the Asian Barometer and now operates in Taipei.
● General Meeting – represents the national partners in the network
The purpose of the General Meeting is to discuss GBS protocols, to raise new subjects, and to provide inputs into Executive Board decisions. Through region-wide and cross- regional meetings in different cities, the GBS network also develops questionnaires and new methods and reports results through an iterative process of professional exchange.
● Advisory Board – consists of respected senior analysts and practitioners
The Advisory Board is chaired by Larry Diamond of Stanford University, co-editor of the Journal of Democracy. The Board provides general advice, technical expertise, and professional contacts on an as-needed basis.