Despite the recent expansion of surveying in the Muslim world, few published studies have addressed methodological questions, including how observable interviewer characteristics affect responses and data quality. Although there are a limited number of studies on interviewer dress effects, none examine interviewer gender. This study asks whether and why gender and religious dress affect responses to gender-related questions. Drawing upon original data from a nationally-representative, partially-randomized survey of 800 Moroccans conducted in 2007, the study finds strong evidence that gender and dress affect responses and item non-response. The paper argues that because hijab implies multiple personal, religious, and political dimensions of identity nested within gender identity, interviewer gender and dress must be considered as intersecting categories. For questions pertaining to women’s role in the public sphere, responses were affected by interviewer dress; respondents reported more progressive attitudes and were more likely to refuse to respond to female interviewers not wearing hijab than to veiled female interviewers and male interviewers. For support for gender equality in family law, results were affected by interviewer gender; respondents reported more liberal views and were more likely to fail to respond to female interviewers with both dress styles than male interviewers. Interviewer characteristics affected responses to more than half of the 174 questions included in the survey, including support for democracy and religiosity. Researchers conducting surveys should code and control for interviewer characteristics in order to reduce total survey error and better understand the social processes which generate public opinion in this crucial region.
Date posted: September 3, 2010
; Last revised: August 15, 2013
Benstead, Lindsay, Effects of Interviewer Gender and Hijab on Gender-Related Survey Responses:
Findings from a Nationally-Representative Field Experiment in Morocco (November 7, 2010). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1670813