Publish studies that give silent majority a voice

I noted with interest the question posed by the head of the civil service, Mr Peter Ong: "How can the silent majority be nudged to speak up in the online space, so that a better balance of views is captured?" ("Better behaviour online: A little 'nudge' may help"; June 26)

This was a follow-up to his observation, from a behavioural economics perspective, that "the first few comments on a new article online may disproportionately influence the tone of the subsequent discussion".

I agree that the solution lies in a two-pronged approach.

On the one hand, policymakers may employ behavioural interventions to encourage the silent majority to express their views online.

On the other hand, as Mr Ong mentioned, we should recognise and build upon traditional knowledge and approaches.

Academic institutions such as the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) have long been studying the opinions of Singaporeans.

For example, the 2014 IPS Survey On Race, Religion And Language provides us with insight into Singaporean attitudes towards inter-religious relations and moral beliefs.

The views of the silent majority are captured because the overall profile of the respondents is closely representative of the national population.

Perhaps more effort can be invested to publicise such findings online, in order to provide Singaporeans with a better balance of views, which are invariably more reliable than disproportionate comments on online media.

Ng Jingyang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2015, with the headline 'Publish studies that give silent majority a voice'. Print Edition | Subscribe