The Good Side of Focus Groups

Issue section: 
(266)

In his article on asylum seekers, 'Labour puts asylum seekers in focus' (July/August SR) Solomon Hughes refers to focus groups as 'guided discussions which reflect the prejudices of their organiser more than public opinion'.

While it's absolutely right to be sceptical about Philip Gould's use of focus groups, they are also a valuable research tool. They have been used by critical social scientists to investigate how opinions are formed collectively--and how they can change collectively.

I'd refer interested readers to work done by the Glasgow Media Group, to Michael Billig's writings and especially to a fascinating book by William Gamson, 'Talking Politics', which shows working class Americans to be far more politically aware than their leaders think.

Rachel Aldred
London