To Karbala: Surveying Religious Shi'a from Iran and Iraq
180 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2016
Date Written: October 20, 2016
This paper exploits the opportunity afforded by Shiite religious pilgrimage sites in southern Iraq (in Karbala and Najaf) to survey over 3000 observant Shiites both from Iran and from Iraq, and to inquire about their attitudes towards their respective governments, the West and the US, as well as their opinions on sectarian conflicts raging across the Middle East in Syria and Iraq, including the rise of ISIS and Iran’s nuclear program. The pilgrimage, which attracts several million people every year, is a unique opportunity to survey a very influential and largely understudied subsample of the Middle East at a time of intense conflict in the region, that being the religious Shiite Iranians and Iraqis that arguably form the backbone of support for their respective governments. Despite its undoubtedly massive and public nature, this religious event is largely unknown to the western world, as are the views of the observant Shiite Muslims who attend it. On a substantive level, this project aims to fill the existing gap by accessing the opinions of Iranian and Iraqi Shiites on a range of salient political issues at a pivotal time, when the US is fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria; has negotiated an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program; and is confronted with intense and violent intra-sectarian conflict in places like Syria, Yemen and Bahrain. On a methodological level, it allows for innovative survey sampling techniques, as well as for survey experiments, (including endorsement and conjoint experiments among others) intended to elicit truthful responses to highly sensitive political questions.
Keywords: survey methodology, public opinion, Shia Islam, religion, Iran, Iraq
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