Bahrain: a case of dodgy research

The Gulf Daily News, which bills itself as "The voice of Bahrain", is up to its old tricks again. Under the jubilant headline "Opposition vanishing", it reported yesterday:

"A major new survey reveals that support for Bahrain's opposition is dramatically waning as the Premier steers the nation into peace."

Two errors in the first three words is good going, even for the Gulf Daily News, but the survey is far from new – the findings were originally published in February – and it cannot sensibly be described as "major". Furthermore, the survey related only to al-Wefaq (Bahrain's main opposition party) and not the opposition as a whole.

The survey, organised by the British Middle East Center for Studies & Research (BMCSR) purports to show that support for al-Wefaq has declined from 65% "upon the uprising" to less than 32% "after what seems to be a series of political disappointments". Research was conducted in three Shia villages – Sitra, al-Aker and Karzakan – "where revolutionaries and former hardcore Wefaq supporters are situated", BMCSR says.

The research, however, is scientifically worthless. The findingspublished in February gave no detailed breakdown of the data, no indication of how interviewees were chosen, what questions they were asked, or who funded the research, though the report does say:

"In many cases some locals refused to cooperate with us and asked our members to clear the village. Over 1,100 locals in all three villages were interviewed, only 900 of which agreed we publish the results."

According to BMCSR, the interviews were conducted over a three-week period by 12 people – four "senior students" from Bahrain University, two "Bahraini activists" (it doesn't say what sort of activists, but they can't be named "for their own safety") and six Britons.

The British interviewers are named as Adam Carr, Marshall Albin, Russell Steinlight, Mary Thaul, Roy Marcy and Lloyd Moore. The first two are described as BMCSR's coordinators, while the other four are said to be Cardiff-based research associates. Moore is also said to be a Newcastle MSc graduate and freelance journalist. Google searches of these names have provided no further information.

But what are we to make of the British Middle East Center for Studies & Research? The "About Us" section of its website, written in bad English (with American spelling), is particularly uninformative. There's no address or phone number, nor does it give the name of anyone involved.

The rest of its website is a mish-mash of content, some related to the Middle East, but also including apparently random articles on engineering, psychology and marketing. Much the same can be said for its Twitter feed which last night cited some unsourced research showing that "the more curvy a woman, the more intelligent she is". 

BMCSR seems to have some sort of connection with the Spring Thinkers Society at Queen Mary University of London. Last May they jointly organised a meeting entitled "Is Iran violating human rights". A poster advertising the event listed the speakers as Mitchell Belfer, Tony Duheaume, Mouna Chetehouna and Amjad Taha.

Any further information will be gratefully received.