Public opinion surveys and the formation of popular discontent in Europe


Over the past decades, it has become impossible to imagine politics, governing, marketing, the media and social science without the public opinion survey. Moreover, the opinion survey has turned out to be a crucial contributor to the social imagination of populations, nations and ‘the world at large’. In this research project, I focus on the issue of populism and the (assumed) rise of popular discontent in Europe. Acknowledging the performativity of data gathering methods, I explore how public opinion research practices, particularly the Eurobarometer surveys commissioned by the European Commission, help to enact ‘European’ and ‘non-European’ attitudes and publics into being. Based on a combination of ethnographic and archival research, I scrutinize how practices of standardization and quantification have been instrumental to the statistical and ideological constitution of discontent, the European people and the political project Europe.