Survey Respondents' Habitus

Resuscitating Controversies
Questions without Answers; Presence of Institutions
By Nicolas Mariot

This short paper aims to revisit what researchers do when they attempt, through questionnaires, interviews, or archives, to collect actors’ beliefs about highly regulated and institutionalized events (such as exams, ceremonies, official speeches, etc.). Three cases of non-response in surveys are examined in an attempt to interpret these silences. What do they indicate? At the end of this study, two points of view are advanced. The first is that collecting reasons is often a pointless exercise because it only serves to demonstrate the infinite diversity of actors’ reactions. The second is that it is problematic in the sense that the quest for beliefs leads the researcher to forget that, very often, the actors manage very well without them while still behaving “as they ought.” It is a question of activities where individual actions can be supported by social institutions.

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