Presidential election could let Iranian pollsters shine

Al Monitor| Matt Dabrowski: During the lead-up to the 2013 Iranian presidential election, the earliest signs of Hassan Rouhani’s initially unanticipated victory came from a surprising source: high-quality polling conducted by Iranian pollsters. In the run-up to the presidential election in May 2017, all signs point to a greater availability of Iranian polling data than in the past.

ESOMAR World Research, the polling industry’s international trade association, lists a dozen Iranian members on its website, a number comparable to other emerging market economies, like the Philippines. The Iranian Marketing Research Association has 24 institutional and individual members listed on its website. With the opportunity presented by the next presidential campaign in Iran, one can expect new players to enter the market.

The first question many ask, given the nature of the Islamic Republic’s political system, is whether public opinion surveys conducted there can be considered valid. Modern Iranian political polling goes back to the late 1980s, and today high-quality polling can be conducted almost anywhere in the world, thanks to universal mobile phone coverage and advances in computer-assisted survey administration. Pollsters, including Western organizations like the Pew Research Center, conduct reliable polls in China, Russia and locations in the Middle East. D3 Systems, a US contracting firm, was even able to conduct surveys in Iraq and Afghanistan during intense periods of combat there.

Iranian researchers are aware of the latest advances in survey methodology. In 2001, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance commissioned a poll on some controversial issues in Iranian society, among them political rights, social trust and religious behavior. Instead of asking respondents about their own personal views, the survey asked how they thought a majority of the population might respond. What is notable here is that this style of questioning is also preferred by Western pollsters for research on sensitive topics. That a ministry was involved in the 2001 survey suggests official approval for this type of research. Important global social science datasets, like the World Values Survey, also collect data in Iran.
Read More Here