Adam M. Pechter, a former deputy publisher of the Middle East Quarterly, is the President and CEO of Pechter Middle East Polls, LLC, a firm based in Princeton, NJ. Before his involvement in Middle East affairs, Mr. Pechter had a nine year career in New Jersey politics and government. He holds degrees from Yale College, Vanderbilt Law School and most recently, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), where he wrote a master's thesis on Arab political polling under the direction of Dr. Fouad Ajami. Mr. Pechter founded Pechter Middle East Polls as a means of creating a more accurate and meaningful portrait of Middle East public opinion. His June poll of Egypt and Jordan has received significant attention because it was conducted soon after President Obama's June 4 speech in Cairo and the Iranian elections, and asked detailed questions about these two events. On August 13, Mr. Pechter addressed the Middle East Forum via conference call.
Mr. Pechter began his talk by stating that while many questioned the reliability of Arab political polling, governments such as the U.S. and Israel had used Arab polling effectively for informational purposes off-and-on over the last thirty years. For example, poll results obtained surreptitiously by the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) in Syria before the first Gulf War were used to pressure Damascus into providing Syrian troop support to liberate Kuwait.
Regardless of such successes, Mr. Pechter noted numerous problems with polls conducted in the Arab world today, including biased or subjective methodology used to create sensational headlines or push hidden agendas. Telephone or internet polling rather than face-to-face interviews further clouded the effectiveness of data gathered.
For his June poll, Pechter designed the survey with Dr. David Pollock, former head of Near East polling for the USIA and author of two books on the subject. After the survey was translated into Arabic, Pechter enlisted a field organization which embedded his 12 questions in an omnibus consumer survey. 1000 people were interviewed in each country—all within the comfort of their own homes. Pechter, who speaks Arabic, went to Amman personally while the survey was being conducted to fine tune it and debrief the fieldworkers.
The poll results seemed to bode well for America. In Egypt, for example, 30-40% trusted Obama's credibility on the top five issues from his June 4 Cairo speech. More importantly, significant proportions of respondents from both countries supported further sanctions against Iran should Tehran continue in its nuclear endeavors. Mr. Pechter noted that the U.S. government could take advantage of this shift in Arab public opinion to garner more support from neighboring Arab régimes in opposition to anti-American attitudes and policies in Tehran.
Other significant responses demonstrated the correlation between attitudes toward the United States and American products; foreign leaders most-admired by respondents; whether it was important to have good relations with the U.S.; and whether the participants had favorable views of the U.S. One interesting finding: in Jordan, a slight majority of respondents thought that it was important to have good relations with the U.S. while a large majority held an unfavorable view of America; whereas, in Egypt, less of the respondents valued Egypt's relationship with the United States but more of them had a favorable view of America.
Summary written by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi.