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Political Research Exchange

The Total Survey Error Paradigm and Challenges to its Application to the Arab World

Survey Research
Kathrin Thomas
University of Aberdeen
Kathrin Thomas
University of Aberdeen
Michael Robbins
Princeton University

Is the The Total Survey Error (TSE) paradigm applicable to survey projects outside the Western hemisphere? What are the challenges in applying the the theoretical framework and its application to context outside the Western world?
The TSE is commonly accepted as a universal approach to studying the quality of survey data. It assumes that survey error, as a combination of representation and measurement error, can occur at every stage of the survey process and, at each stage, affects the quality of the final survey statistic. Even though the TSE framework is theoretically applicable to different contexts, systematic analysis of respresentation and measurement error in a variety of surveys has been largely limted to Western contexts.
Survey projects outside the Western world may deal with different challenges, however. Regarding the representation side of the TSE, potentially weaker sampling frames may be available; specific minority groups (e.g., gender, religion, language) may be systemmatically underrepresented; or potential gatekeepers may prevent randomly selected participants to take part in the survey interview inducing sample bias. Concerning the measurement side, especially the presence of thrid persons at the survey interview; interviewer effects due to visible charateristics referring to cultural identities; or in the even data fabrication may be challenging.
This paper outlines the challenges of the TSE when condcuting surveys, specifically, in the Arab World. We discuss the challenges that the project encountered in representing the Arab peoples and measuring their attitudes towards a variety of social and political issues. In addition, we aim to present initial analysis addressing the applicability of the TSE to the Arab context.
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