Article and shoddy research by J Steele debunked by @Brian_Whit, @BSS_Syria. Good job guys. #Syria
Brian Whitaker’s Article: Syria and the ‘Assad poll’
Another insidious myth is doing the rounds: that 55% of Syrians support president Assad. The figure was cited by Aisling Byrne in an article which I critiqued recently. Now, it has surfaced again in an article by Jonathan Steele for the Guardian.
While it is undoubtedly true that the Assad regime still has a measure of support within Syria, no one can sensibly put a figure on it or claim that Assad’s supporters form a majority.
The 55% figure comes from an internet survey by YouGov Siraj for al-Jazeera’s Doha Debates. Just over 1,000 people across the Arab countries were asked their opinion of Assad and an overwhelming majority – 81% – thought he should step down.
However, al-Jazeera says the picture inside Syria is different: “Syrians are more supportive of their president with 55% not wanting him to resign.”
What is the basis for this statement? A look at the methodology of the survey shows that 211 of the respondents were in Levantine countries and that 46% of those were in Syria. In other words, the finding is based on a sample of just 97 internet users in Syria among a population of more than 20 million. It’s not a meaningful result and certainly not adequate grounds for such sweeping conclusions about national opinion in Syria.
British Solidary for Syria’s Article: Syrian poll backing Assad has no credibility
It is astonishing that you publish an article based on such poor evidence (Most Syrians back Assad, 18 January). We have no doubt that the Doha Debates are a respectable forum for dialogue, but in the poll Jonathan Steele quotes, 1,012 respondents completed the survey, with only 21% (211 respondents) from the Levant. Only 46% of those 211 were from Syria – that’s about 97 respondents. How can this possibly be representative of Syrian opinion? And is it even possible to conduct an objective opinion poll in a tyranny ruled by fear, where expressing opinions freely can lead to arrest, torture, and even execution? Steele talks about western media bias, but does not mention that very few journalists have been able to enter Syria legally. Those that do are kept under tight surveillance. Neither does he mention the role of Syrian state media in spreading disinformation and fuelling armed conflict. He seems to have set himself an impossible task – proving the legitimacy of a dictatorship which kills its citizens on a daily basis.
Anas El-Khani, Kinana Saffour, Anass Toma, Amr Salahi, Hamza al-Sibaai, Hussam Hajjouk
British Solidarity for Syria