Survey Research in the Arab World: Challenges and Opportunities
by Lindsay J. Benstead, Portland State University
Survey research has expanded in the Arab world since the 1980s. The Arab Spring marked a watershed when surveying became possible in Tunisia and Libya, and researchers added additional questions needed to answer theoretical and policy questions. Almost every Arab country now is included in the Arab Barometer or World Values Survey. Yet, some scholars express the view that the Arab survey context is more challenging than that of other regions or that respondents will not answer honestly, due to authoritarianism. I argue that these positions reflect biases that assume “Arab exceptionalism” more than fair and objective assessments of data quality. Based on cross-national data analysis, I found evidence of systematically missing data in all regions and political regimes globally. These challenges and the increasing openness of some Arab countries to survey research should spur studies on the data-collection process in the Middle East and beyond.