Have a question about how or where QGS works? Send us an email!
How can you do interviewing if people don't have telephones? Do you use mobile phones?
It may come as a surprise that outside of North America and Europe, most interviewing is conducted face-to-face. Indeed, it is the only way to reach rural residents and the lowest socio-economic strata in most developing countries. You might remember learning about the Kish Grid in grad school. We use it daily. Mobile phone penetration is usually much higher than landlines in most places and mobile sampling has its uses. Indeed, we are recommending it more and more often. We've seen data that show it has some real advantages in terms of speed, interviewer safety in conflict zones and increasing female participation. While it most certainly is not an option in many places, there are some countries where phone interviewing from abroad is the only option because the repressive political situation precludes face-to-face interviews (Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria).
How can you work in these places if you don't speak the language?
In every country we work in, we partner with top-notch local data collectors who know their countries much, much better than we ever will. These firms are usually accustomed to working in English and meeting Western expectations. While we bring our general research expertise to table, we rely on them to provide us with the lay of the land -- what places are off limits for interviewing, what lines of questioning are risky, how to best translate a question and other key cultural considerations. When they give advice, we listen to them.
You're a lady! How can you work effectively in Muslim countries?
Foreign women working in Muslim countries are usually treated like honorary men. They don't know what else to do with us. Being a woman actually works in Christine's favor since she can observe male and female focus groups and male and female pre-tests, whereas men are forbidden to watch women's activities. She has sat in the homes of Yemeni women as they answered questions in a pretest and shared Iftar (the post-Ramadan fast meal) and chewed qat with Yemeni men later the same evening. Christine has acquired a wardrobe that includes a black abaya and typical shalwar kameez to help her blend in modestly into whatever country she finds herself.
Isn't it impossible to conduct research in my country because of wars or instability?
We bet it's not. We've done projects in Libya, Liberia, Iraq, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Djibouti, Yemen and Afghanistan during the height of political crises, floods and wars. We've had a suicide bomb go off outside during a focus group in Peshawar, had an entire focus group arrested (and quickly released!) in Djibouti and continued pretests in Yemen after a suicide attack on the US Embassy two kilometers away. If there are multi-national companies or NGOs or large donor organizations operating in your country, consumer or opinion research is certainly being done on a regular basis. That said, safety of participants, our staff and field interviewers is our highest priority. If a particular area is off-limits due to political instability, violence or natural disasters, we don't send interviewers there. We'll come up with alternative sampling points and make a note of it in our methodology report.
Won't people in my country refuse to participate because they are scared/cynical/repressed/prone to lying?
While we are fully aware of all the reasons people might hesitate to give their honest opinions, particularly about politics and elections, we prefer to let them tell us they are too scared to answer rather than to assume so. Fearful respondents can be reassured by well-trained interviewers who share a common culture and language or come from the same town or village. Furthermore, we have ways of measuring if our questions have crossed a line.
We have found that people living under repressive or corrupt regimes are often eager to share their opinions because no one ever asks them what they think about anything. This is why we get so excited about our work. We think giving ordinary people a voice when decisions about their lives are being made is the most democratic of all activities. We are not at all surprised when people are happy to participate in surveys and focus groups.
Isn't it impossible to interview women in my country?
We hear this primarily from lazy data collectors. It's difficult and time consuming to interview women in some places, but if women make up 50% of the population, then 50% of our interviews will be conducted among women, using female interviewers. No excuses accepted. If we hear this excuse from a data collector, we find a new one. That said, we have recently seen data that shows in some places, it is much more cost- and time-effective to use phone interviewing to reach women than face-to-face interviews. Ask us more!
Isn't what you do dangerous?
We keep a low profile and an ear to the ground at all times. We don't call attention to ourselves and avoid communicating our movements. If our local, ex-pat and security contacts say it's too dangerous, for example, to accompany interviewers in the field on pre-tests, we don't do it. But we don't let the occasional suicide bombing stop us from getting your data collected, as long as it is at least two kilometers away!