Ruut Veenhoven, Erasmus University Rotterdam and University of Utrecht, The Netherlands
Published in: Social Indicators Research, 2002, vol 58, pp 33-45, ISSN 0303-8300
Also published in: Hagerty M.R., Vogel, J., & Moller, V. (eds) ‘Assessing quality of life and living conditions to guide national policy. The state of the art’,  Social Indicators Research Series vol 11, pp. 33-45, Kluwer Academic, 2002 Dordrecht, The Netherlnds, ISBN 1-4020-0727-2 

There are many qualms about subjective indicators, and some believe that social policy would be better for not using them. This paper consists of a review of these objections. It is argued that policy makers need subjective indicators, the main reasons being:

  1. Social policy is never limited to merely material matters; it is also aimed at matters of mentality. These substantially subjective goals require subjective indicators.
  2. Progress in material goals can not always be measured objectively. Subjective measurement is often better.
  3. Inclusive measurement is problematic with objective substance. Current sum-scores make little sense. Using subjective satisfaction better indicates comprehensive quality.
  4. Objective indicators do little to inform policy makers about public preferences. Since the political process also does not reflect public preferences too well, policy makers need additional information from opinion polls.
  5. Policy makers must distinguish between 'wants' and 'needs'. Needs are not observable as such, but their gratification materialises in the length and happiness of peoples' lives. This final output criterion requires assessment of subjective appreciation of life-as-whole.
Full text