Public Opinion in Azerbaijan 1998

Publication Date: 
31 Dec 1998

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Introduction

This report presents the results of a survey of public opinion conducted in Azerbaijan during October and November, 1998. Interviews were conducted shortly after the October I I Presidential election (from October 20 - November 13), with a sample of 1000 randomly selected adults (18+ years of age). In keeping with the standard practice of the IFES survey research program, this survey was intended in so far as possible to be nationally representative of the entire adult population of Azerbaijan. What this means, practically, is that every adult citizen of Azerbaijan had the same chance of being selected for participation in the survey. Great effort was made to conduct interviews in all regions of the country (although some regions had to be excluded for security reasons), in both cities and rural areas, in both the Azeri and Russian languages. These measures were intended to keep to a minimum any population being systematically excluded from the survey.

This survey is a pioneering effort for two reasons: it is the first authentically national survey of public opinion in the country's history, and it is the first survey to focus on attitudes toward the political and economic transition occurring in Azerbaijan. As such, this survey provides a baseline against which future surveys can be judged, and therefore is an important contribution to social science research in Azerbaijan, quite apart from the results of particular questions. On the other hand, there is' a disadvantage to being the first; it is not until future surveys replicate the sample characteristics and results to key questions that we can attest there is no distortion of general public opinion inherent in these results, notwithstanding the efforts expended to avoid such distortion.

The survey questionnaire was written by IFES. It drew heavily upon the questionnaires of IFES surveys conducted in other NIS Republics, repeating questions which had proved fruitful. Sample design and interviewing were accomplished by the private firm SIAR of Baku, which was selected by means of a competitive bid process and after interviewing the principals. SIAR has substantial experience conducting marketing research in Azerbaijan. But since marketing research focuses on those in the money economy and usually on urban populations, the challenge this project posed to SIAR was to conduct an appropriate number of interviews in rural areas. SIAR utilized an existing network of experienced interviewers and supervisors, but this team was augmented by new hires, whom SIAR principals trained.

There are many practical difficulties in accomplishing a nationally-representative survey in a country such as Azerbaijan, but two merit special mention. The first is the fluidity of the population and the absence of reliable census data. The internal migrations and emigration, caused by the war and by economic hardship, have been huge. The distribution of our interviews throughout the country is based on our best guess of the local population. Official statistics, for example, do not acknowledge that 41 percent of the national population resides in and around Baku, yet that's where 41 percent of our interviews were conducted. The second problem - doubtless related to the first - is that 2 of 3 persons selected for participation in the survey in Baku refused to participate. We assume this refusal rate is higher among those who are not permanent residents in Baku and may be there unofficially.

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