An Incredibly Misleading Poll On Syria

Andrew Sullivan —  Feb 10 2012 @ 12:47pm

by Zack Beauchamp

There's been a spate of recent articles citing a poll that purports to show 55% of Syrians want Assad to hold on. Today alone, James Traub and Daniel Larison have both used it, and Jonathan Steele made the result a key point in a column a few weeks back inveighing against Western involvement in the country. So it's worth noting the finding has been debunked. Brian Whitaker explains:

The 55% figure comes from an internet survey by YouGov Siraj for al-Jazeera's Doha Debates. Just over 1,000 people across the Arab countries were asked their opinion of Assad and an overwhelming majority – 81% – thought he should step down…A look at the methodology of the survey shows that 211 of the respondents were in Levantine countries and that 46% of those were in Syria. In other words, the finding is based on a sample of just 97 internet users in Syria among a population of more than 20 million. It's not a meaningful result and certainly not adequate grounds for such sweeping conclusions about national opinion in Syria.

And internet polling is inherently unreliable even 1) with a larger sample size and 2) when the target population isn't burdended by interent censors. This is obviously a little thing, but myths like "55% of Syrians support Assad" tend not to go away unless rigorously and publicly combated.