Fear Factor


I wanted to mention the report by worldpublicopinion.org when it was first published but didn’t get a chance. Since it was referred to by Mr. Marandi  – considered by many here to be on the academic front of the mouthpiece industry  – in a CNN discussion on Sunday, it might be a good time to revisit the topic. The report stirred up controversy here, causing us much vexation and digestive upset.

In all honesty, I don’t know anything about polls and statistics, I am even forgetting my basic math, but to accept the results of this poll is tantamount to believing that the post-election chaos, on the streets and in the corridors of politics, must have only been a figment of our imaginations.

I don’t want to hurt their feelings, so let’s give worldpublicopinion.org A+ for effort. As for publishing the results of the effort, maybe they should have considered the health hazards and slept on it. So, they left me with no choice but to correct parts of the poll and repeat it. Unlike the original survey, the refusal rate for this one was a little less than 52%, so you can take this as solid information.

How much confidence do you have in US President Barack Obama to do the right thing regarding world affairs?

I found the answer consistent with the WPO report: 16%. Then last night I asked myself the question and didn’t get a wink of sleep. I got on the internet to find out what “World Affairs” really meant.

Six hours later, I realized I wasn’t any wiser. After perusing the 38,700,000 results and getting familiar with terms such as “socioeconomic”, “geopolitical”, “interdependence”, “trade”, “foreign policy”, “global economy” and many more, I think I have to refine the question and call all those people again. In fact the question may need to be broken down, because I spent another six hours thinking about “doing the right thing”, which led me to concepts like “ethics”, “political philosophy”, “interests”, “utilitarianism”, and “eye of the beholder”.

In light of this development, I decided to leave the foreign stuff until I can further specify what I am asking these people.

Considering everything that has occurred before, during and after the elections, do you consider Ahmadinejad to be the legitimate president of Iran?

Of the 50% who answered the question, 12.5% said they belonged to either the Basij or the Sepah, and 87.5% said “considering everything that has occurred before, during and especially after the elections” they are willing to consider Ahmadinejad as higher than president if he wanted them. Hence, in post-weighing procedures I up-weighed this group and added the excess to the refusals. So the total for this question should really be “yes”.

Note: one respondent misunderstood “legitimate” as the opposite of “bastard” for which he is in trouble as his phone was wiretapped.

In general, how satisfied are you with the process by which the authorities are elected in this country?

Now this question in the report was very interesting to me, but I thought it required further probing. Here, I initially got the same numbers: a very large majority (81%) said they are satisfied with the general process, though only 40% said they were very satisfied. Sixteen percent said they are not satisfied. But when respondents were asked if they were very very satisfied, 20% said they were, and then only 10% said they were very very very satisfied.

My assistants are still on the phone with this question, incrementally adding a “very”. I will publish the results once the question is over.

In Iran how free do you think people are to express controversial political views, without fear of being harassed or punished?

To me this question should have been binary. Free, or not free. Combining “how free” with “without fear” was just confusing. Let us look at the response with a 71% rating in the WPO report: “I am somewhat free to express, without fear.” Perhaps it is just me, but I don’t understand what this phrase means. I can handle “I am free to express without fear”, or the opposite “I am not free to express without fear.” I can also process “I am somewhat free to express” and its opposite. Let me say it another way: I am either free of fear to say something, or not. I cannot be “somewhat” free of that fear.

Before going insane, I decided to rephrase the question:

Do you agree with Mr. Ahmadinejad that Iranians have “almost complete freedom”?

Lo and behold, 100% said “yes”.

Are you comfortable answering silly political questions over the phone in Iran?

I squeezed in this last but essential question to assess the reliability of my survey. 14% refused to answer because they were offended, 5% said they were comfortable, 50% said they were not comfortable and 31% responded with a single tut. I marked them as “freaked out and afraid even to say so”.

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