Wellbeing for Public Policy: Roles for Q Methodology
Measures of income, such as gross domestic product, have long helped governments gauge how well their policies serve the overall wellbeing of citizens. In recent decades, such measures have been joined by a variety of alternative and complementary measures of how well a life is going for a person, or for a group of people. Measures and their referents are generally categorised as subjective or objective. Subjective measures are attained by self-report methods and objective otherwise. What is measured is deemed subjective if it is a feeling or evaluation and objective if it is an observed outcome or characteristic. Q methodology’s strength in the objective study of the subjective enables an enriched treatment of self- reported feelings or evaluations across the full spectrum of conceptual wellbeing referents. Q methodology also has potential in clarifying some of the challenges wellbeing researchers confront when trying to make clear distinctions between types of measures and referents. Against a backdrop of the policy relevance of various concepts and measures of wellbeing, I characterise, justify and illustrate some specific substantive and theoretical contributions that Q methodology offers.