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PS: Political Science & Politics

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Arab countries -- Survey research, Middle East -- Public opinion, North Africa -- Public opinion, World Values Survey


Survey research has steadily expanded in the Arab world since the 1980s. The Arab spring marked a watershed when surveying became possible in Tunisia and Libya, and questionnaires included previously censured questions. Almost every Arab country is now included in the Arab Barometer or World Values Survey and researchers have numerous datasets to answer theoretical and policy questions. Yet some scholars express the view that the Arab survey context is more challenging than other regions or that respondents will not answer honestly. I argue that this reflects biases of “Arab exceptionalism,” more than fair assessments of data quality. Based on cross-national data analysis, I find evidence of systematically missing data—a possible indicator of social desirability bias—in all regions and political regimes. These challenges and the increasing openness of some Arab countries to survey research should spur studies on the data collection process in the Arab world and beyond.


This is the author's version of an article that subsequently appeared in PS: Political Science & Politics, volume 51, issue 3, published by Cambridge University Press for the American Political Science Association.

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