Conducting Research in Al Sham

The Syrian uprising has now entered its fourth year and resolution remains a far-fetched ambition. This conflict presents unique complexities that not only have never been seen in previous wars, but also remain unique to the political and religious significance of Syria within the Middle East. Not only have the political agendas of neighbouring and Western countries shaped the dichotomy of the Syrian conflict, with the influx of foreign fighters both in numbers and countries of origin; the degree of fragmentation amongst opposition groups and the rallying influence of social media will all leave an unpredictable mark on the Syrian people for generations to come.

While governments and aid organisations feel that their hands are tied to some extent, they recognise the importance in defining their strategies well before the dust settles. This is where ORB International comes in. We have identified and mentored a strong team of 26 researchers in Syria on sampling methodology, interviewing techniques and quality of deliverables in order to provide our clients with the most representative opinions of the Syrian people at a time when the international community can no longer wait to help heal the nation.

Sample Distribution by Governate

The credibility of research in Syria depends on representativeness sample and most importantly, ensuring that each governate, whether government or opposition held, is covered proportionally. In November of 2013, ORB International and our local team in Syria successfully interviewed 2,260 nationals over the age of 18 across all governorates with the exception of Quneitra due to the security situation. Our interviewers, who are all locals of the areas in which they work, were able to win the confidence of their community members and ensure genuine responses to a series of complex subject matters; including opinions towards the current political situation,security, the economy and attitudes towards the various players in the conflict(opposition groups and international countries alike).    

Conducting research of this scale in Syria poses a number of challenges that we have successfully overcome. Access to a number of locations, particularly those where the fighting is most intense was difficult and required daily monitoring. Obtaining permission in both government and opposition controlled areas was difficult and required approximately 20 days, but were successfully obtained and a all parties cooperated in allowing the interviewers to field the questionnaire following a random household and individual selection methodology. The safety of our interviewers is paramount and required an extensive list of procedures and communication checks. The nature of many key questions could have easily raise suspicion and hence, maintaining friendly interviewer conduct as well as conscientiously-worded questions was key. Finally, electricity supply is unreliable and communication was often time over mobile phone or Skype.

Our local teams in Syria

       Our local teams in Syria

Research findings confirmed many of our hypotheses. A sizable proportion believe that Lebanon, Iran and Russia have a significant say on what goes on in Syria. A sizable minority view The Free Syrian Army in a positive light but believe that al Qaida’s influence is negative. Furthermore, more than one in five of those who currently live in Syria say they have been internally displaced from their original place or residence.

ORB has recently fielded a few additional questions which assess whether the Syrian people support or oppose foreign military intervention, which  of their basic needs and services they have experienced a shortage of in the last six months and whether they believe that the revolution will have a positive or negative impact on their future. Results will be released within the next month. We are committed to understanding public opinions in Syria, continue to mentor our local team and provide our clients with the highest quality deliverables needed to inform their strategic objectives for the future of Syria.

For more information on our capabilities and worldwide research experience please do not hesitate to contact Cara Carter or Mai Omar


Non-confidential intelligence reports: