Iraq Sidebar: How The Poll Was Done

Interviewers dealt with more than just hostile questioning. In Salahuddin, "There were lots of road blocks and check points on most roads of the province. All the bridges were full of armed men," one report said. "A big explosion in Baiji district caused the security forces to come in large numbers, and that made travel a lot more difficult." After the Aug. 20 assassination in Muthanna, another interviewer said, "The curfew lasted two days and we had great difficulty to return to our office to deliver the questionnaires."

Sometimes more prosaic roadblocks were involved; one sampling point in the marshes of Basra province was so remote that after driving as near as possible, an interviewer said, "We used animals pulling carts and small boats called 'mashoof' to reach the selected sampling point." Another location, a village in the Salman district of Muthanna, "is 142 kilometers from the center," another said, "and ordinary transportation was hard to find."

The survey consisted of interviews (averaging 27 minutes long) of randomly selected adults at randomly selected homes via 457 individual sampling points, themselves randomly selected across the country. Questionnaires were prepared in Arabic and Kurdish (using the Sorani dialect); 69 percent of interviews were either directly observed by supervisors, back-checked by in-person visits or back-checked by phone. Of the 117 interviewers on this project, all but two had previous experience on similar surveys.

A "cooperation rate" refers to the number of randomly selected individuals who agree to participate in a survey; in the United States, cooperation of 40 percent is considered reasonable. In Iraq, despite its difficulties and sectarian tensions, 65 percent of randomly selected respondents agreed to cooperate.

In addition to keeping field notes, teams carried cameras to take photos of interviews when the respondents agreed. The pictures underscore the wide range of Iraq's population, with some respondents in Western garb, down to a knotted tie; others in traditional clothes such as the hijab (veil) and dishdasha (flowing robes).

Notably, all the photos from Anbar and Baghdad are from the neck down; no respondent in either of these provinces consented to have their faces shown, an indication itself of security concerns there. In other areas – notably the far more secure Kurdish north – respondents smiled genially for the camera.

Nonetheless, even in Anbar, where insularity is high and resentment over the U.S. invasion seethes, an interviewer reported, "I have noticed that the respondents answered very seriously and were not afraid to tell me their answers to these questions."

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