The call for a ‘data revolution’ has spurred debate around the inclusion of new data and indicators to measure progress towards development goals. Indicators of perceptions – based on asking people what matters to them most and their opinions of change – could help to stimulate public debate and hold policy-makers accountable.
• Key strengths of perceptions data are their timeliness and frequency – such attributes could make them very useful as warning signals for policy intervention.
• We illustrate the potential of perception indicators in three post-2015 areas: social norms related to gender, violence and security, and governance. Perceptions and so-called ‘objective’ data can measure complementary aspects of these areas. Analysing gaps between perceptions and objective indicators can improve understanding of how people are dissatisfied, or when there are implementation gaps in the policies intended to tackle these areas.
• Main limitations of this data are the challenge of ensuring the reliability of the information obtained, and difficulties in making meaningful comparisons across groups of people. We suggest that perceptions data would be more useful to monitor changing situations over time within countries, rather than to establish comparisons across them.