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Polling and the pursuit of Arab public opinion

Phull, Kiran K. (2019) Polling and the pursuit of Arab public opinion. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

This thesis explores the history and development of the field of public opinion inquiry relating to the Arab region. Interrogating epistemological questions of who claims the right to produce knowledge, and by what means, this thesis seeks to explain the rise of global public opinion polling, with a specific focus on the methods and practices by which Arab public opinion has been pursued, captured, claimed, and (re)presented by international pollsters. In the literature, engagement with the construct “Arab public opinion” has tended to focus on the hard results of polls and surveys, or the methodological obstacles that preclude the empirical pursuit of public opinion in non-democratic contexts. I argue that public opinion (in the form of hard results) cannot be divorced from the theoretical and epistemological legacies inherent in its construction. The pursuit of public opinion by empirical means is a political act, and must be analysed as such. This thesis traces the development of the field of Arab public opinion inquiry in three stages through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, beginning with epistemic interventions into to the region by colonial actors, followed by the embedding of foreign inquiry in the local setting through the institutionalisation of social science research, and culminating in the rise of local, indigenous epistemic actors who seek in part to reclaim knowledge of the self through processes of localisation. The argument is supported with theoretical and empirical research, including in-depth interviews with over fifty international pollsters, practitioners, and public opinion experts. Overall, this thesis provides a sociological and epistemological account of the dominance of Western scientific norms in global public opinion inquiry, and explores the meaningful ways in which the local reclamation of knowledge on this front is taking place today.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Kiran K. Phull
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Bicchi, Federica
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3952

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