Spring 2011
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

This report was written by students at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

In January 2011, protests started in Tunisia, sparking a string of uprisings in the Muslim world with consequences yet unknown. At the same time as the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions, the Lebanese government collapsed bringing the Hezbollah-led March 8th coalition to power and the popular Governor of Punjab province in Pakistan was assassinated. These monumental shifts caught many policymakers, academics, journalists and pollsters completely by surprise. As policymakers scramble to formulate policy to confront these new realities, in the context of two major wars and a brewing conflict in Libya, there is an urgent need for accurate and relevant public opinion data on the Muslim world.

In the ten years since September 11, issues on the Muslim world have taken a prominent position in the media, academics, policy circles and living rooms across the US. In spite of this, the region and its issues remain enigmatic and complicated to many policymakers in the US. Often, information alone does not get at the core of what is going on in the region, unless it is understood in the proper context. Lacking this deep understanding, it is difficult to craft policy that is appropriate, relevant and grounded in realities of these countries.

Our client is one of the world’s largest public opinion survey organizations. Through its survey data, reporting and analysis, it has the ability to both capture world public opinion and influence global perceptions. Our work is specifically timed to inform its survey of the Muslim world as well as its broader long-term work. Although our client is broadly interested in new information on the Muslim world, its primary region of interest for this report was the Middle East. This priority is reflected in the report.

This report provides recommendations on how our client can increase the accuracy and relevancy of its survey work through question formulation and reporting and analysis. It focuses on the key regional issues of democratization, Islamism and terrorism and on the countries of Egypt, Lebanon and Pakistan. It also recommends an expanded framework of analysis for interpretation of results.

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