Research Got Talent: Research for legislative change

Part of our article series from the winners of ESOMAR's Research Got Talent competition, this piece shares best practices a public opinion research project should have to be a crucial part in policy-making.

6 min read
6 min read
legislative change

Authors Vit Pavlis and Kristyna Karesova from NMS Market Research agency (Prague, CZ) got together with an NGO Konsent during the “No means no” project to fight for a much-needed legislative change in post-communist Czechia. The redefinition of rape, where the concept of consent is crucial to define rape, has finally been passed thanks to public opinion research. What were the steps taken to succeed?

Understanding the social climate of opinion
The aim of the project was, through an in-depth analysis of public opinion, to support the lobbying MPs, who have the possibility of changing the definition of rape in Czech legislation.

What has been missing in the definition is a clear anchoring of the absence of consent as a key element of rape, not just the use of physical violence. To ensure this, we decided to design a questionnaire that thematically covered a wide range of resource topics. A content analysis of the media space was conducted, defining hypotheses to be tested by public opinion in the form of the main arguments of opponents and supporters of the legislative change disseminated in the media space, on social networks and in political debates. Desk research of similar research from abroad was done, which enabled future comparison of results in an international context.

Thanks to this approach, researchers were ready to debunk the myths prevalent around the redefinition of rape with raw data and could anticipate future questions from the media and MPs. An example to illustrate this is the often-publicized concern that the Czechs do not understand the concept of consensual sex, cannot imagine its form and shape, and would not agree to legislative change on this basis. The results have shown that these fears were unnecessary.

The analysis of the awareness that the Czech public has about the issue of sexualized violence was also a crucial argument. Respondents answered questions about the perceived extent of rape in the Czech Republic.

  • How many cases happen every year?

  • What proportion of victims are women?

  • What proportion of cases are actually reported to the authorities?

The researchers pointed to a huge gap between reality and public opinion; the Czech public significantly underestimates the taboo issue and has no realistic idea of its seriousness.

However, without widespread awareness, we cannot expect strong social pressure, which NGOs, experts, and market and public opinion researchers must exert. This insight has also supported the need for legislative change. Details in the video presentation here:

Opinion leaders, politicians, and experts as co-researchers
A key aspect of the project's success proved to be the involvement of all stakeholders in the development of the flow and content of the questionnaire, testing its comprehensibility for respondents, as well as the discussion of interim results, insights, and future media outputs. By taking this step, the researchers eliminated the risk of the results being challenged for irrelevance; simply put, any of the parties involved would be surprised by the results and refuse to work with them as a source of information. Ongoing consultation and facilitated commenting contributed to the strength of the research insights in advocating for legislative change.

Methodology reflects sensitivity and complexity
A standing challenge was to adapt the research methodology to the fact that sexualized violence is still somehow a taboo topic in post-communist space, the extent of it is unrealistic, and the issue is being underestimated by society. Therefore, the researchers decided to conduct the research online with a representative sample of people over 15. An online questionnaire from the safety of home eliminates the risk of shame and bias in answering. To make the questionnaire as clear as possible, it was fine-tuned several times through pilot testing with a smaller sample of respondents. The content of the questionnaire was also discussed with professionals who are involved in publishing on sexualized violence and working with victims, which allowed the questionnaire to work with clear and sensitive language to describe the issue. Similarly, many open-ended questions were used, coded and handled very carefully by the researchers.

Crucial timing and media coverage
Data collection and analysis were conducted so that for presentation to MPs, the data was as up-to-date as possible, so that it could not be challenged for non-relevance at the time the MPs addressed the topic. The researchers and NGO experts presented the main findings directly to MPs and held a press conference for the media together with key MPs. This allowed the findings from the research to reach the media for a period of several weeks when the redefinition of rape was being debated in the Czech Parliament. The researchers' statements were quoted by major TV stations and online news portals and used for a social media campaign. The direct interaction allowed for high interest and greater control over how the topic is framed in the media.

Thanks to the presentation and discussion of the results, Czech government passed an amendment to the law containing a redefinition of rape that includes a key section with the concept of consent, simply said "no means no". As of April 2024, the new definition of rape is a part of the law as it was passed smoothly through the Czech Parliament in an expedited hearing. It is deemed that the biggest impact on the law change was made by the NGO Konsent, with whom this project helped to get the needed data for argumentation. After this successful law change, a more just future lies ahead for Czech society.


  • January 2023 - data collection

  • April 2023 - press conference and meetings with politicians discussing the data and possible redefinition

  • June-August 2023 - The Ministry of Justice works on two draft amendments to the definition of rape and finalizes the wording

  • November 2023 - Ministry submits amendment of the redefinition of rape to the Criminal Code to the Government

  • December 2023 - The government passes an amendment to the law containing a redefinition of rape that includes a key section with “no means no”

  • 2024 - the Parliament voted in favor of the amended law