For the past eight years, Munqith Dagher has helped manage Edison’s field operations for projects in many countries in the Mideast and North Africa. Dr. Dagher now leads efforts to establish quality survey research in Libya. Edison’s Rob Farbman discussed research in post-Kaddafi Libya with Dr. Dagher:
You started the first public opinion research firm in Iraq. Now that you have helped to pioneer survey research in Libya, how would you compare your experiences in the two countries?
Both countries have some similarities and differences as well. In Iraq, it was my country–where I lived and worked for my entire life–so it was not difficult to find capable and enthusiastic people to hire as interviewers, supervisors and managers. The situation is very different in Libya. The recruitment of staff is certainly our biggest challenge and we have gone through a much longer process than we did in Iraq to get to where we are now ready to field quality research.
On the other hand, the situation on the ground in Iraq when I started there was much more risky than it was in Libya, although there are considerable risks in Libya as well. International interest was much greater in Iraq than it is in Libya now. That’s why the first poll [we did] in Iraq received much more coverage and attention than the work we have done in Libya recently. Nevertheless, working in both countries has many challenges and requires a lot perseverance to carry out.
What are the biggest challenges a field staff faces conducting survey research in Libya? Are there any lingering obstacles to working in Libya stemming from the recent war?
Convincing people that this work is important for their life and future, finding good staff,and training and supervising them was the main challenge. But we had many other challenges, including getting the approval of the new authorities for working on the ground. In addition, it was not easy to find accurate data and other information required to draw good samples and to correctly reflect the population. Lack of good and reliable telephone communications and Internet were also obstacles and continue to make our work in Libya a difficult and slow endeavor. But the process is getting a bit easier as we do more work in the country.
What have been the reactions from respondents in Libya to being asked their opinions? Do people feel free to express their honest opinions?
Our Libyan staff expected a lot of refusals, but I was optimistic. In Iraq, we had faced similar skepticism about people’s willingness to participle in surveys, but that proved incorrect as most were very willing to speak with us. And our work in Libya so far has shown the people there to be similar to Iraqis in that regard. With the exception of a few areas, the response rate was very good and people had the will and desire to speak freely.
What kinds of information are clients currently most interested in?
Political and security information are in the most demand right now. In the future, I expect market intelligence for corporate clients to be the biggest portion of our business in Libya.
Thank you, Dr. Dagher!