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Pepperdine University Releases Findings from Secret Syrian Study
Eight out of ten Syrians surveyed want to see regime change and won't be satisfied with mere reform, according to analysis by Angela Hawken, associate professor of economics and policy analysis at the School of Public Policy (SPP), of interviews done for the Democracy Council of California.
That latest "secret survey" results reflect face-to-face interviews with 551 Syrians collected between August 24 and September 2, 2011, despite an official ban on public opinion gathering. An earlier effort took place in January and February of 2010. "The most surprising thing about these results is that they could be collected in the first place," explains Hawken.
James Prince, President of the Democracy Council and a leading expert on Arab civil society, says, "This survey further illustrates the deep-seated angst felt by most Syrians. The Syrian people do not have confidence in the Assad regime. They no longer want to live in the Baath security state. As in other regional countries, the Syrians are fed up with the corruption, nepotism, and lack of opportunity in Syria. The people are searching for alternatives to Assad."
In the earlier survey, about six Syrians in ten saw the government as incapable of handling the country's problems; in the new survey that figure is nearly nine in ten.
Two-thirds of the respondents agree that "democracy is preferable to any other form of government." Syrians hold negative and positive views about the Muslim Brotherhood in about equal numbers. Despite their discontent with their government, Syrians remain optimistic, with nine in ten expecting the future to be better than the present.
The tense security situation in Syria presented many logistical hurdles to collecting these data. The field team had particular difficulty interviewing women, who were less willing than men to participate. The women who did answer the survey reported less engagement in public matters than men, and were less critical of the government. "Those who agreed to answer a poll conducted without government approval may be more likely to express anti-government sentiments than their neighbors who refused," Hawken continues. "We adjusted the results to account for demographic differences in response rates, but it's hard to tell just how representative the numbers are of overall public opinion in Syria. Still, we know a lot more now than we did before the survey. And, equally important, we have shown that it is possible to collect public-opinion data even in very repressive countries."
Hawken is an associate professor of economics and policy analysis at the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University. Study coauthors were Jonathan Kulick, senior project director at SPP, Matthew Leighty, assistant project director at SPP, and SPP alumnus Jillian Kissee (MPP '11).
The Democracy Council is a nonprofit, independent organization dedicated to promoting rule of law, respect for human rights, and equal opportunity in emerging communities around the globe.