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Welcome

I study political economy, political behavior, and political attitudes in the Arab Gulf states, mostly using original public opinion data.  I am also interested in survey methodology in the Middle East context. I am an Associate Research Professor at the Social and Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI) at Qatar University, where I have been based since completing my Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Michigan in 2011. In Fall 2020, I am also Visiting Associate Professor at Georgetown University in Qatar. I lived for two years in Bahrain while doing dissertation fieldwork, and before that I spent two memorable years in Yemen for Arabic language study.

I started this website as a resource for others interested in survey-based research on Gulf politics. Here you can find my updated CV, copies of publications and replication data, as well as information on past and ongoing survey projects.

The End of the GCC Crisis

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I have published a policy piece in Al-Monitor titled "Concerns Over Finances, Not Iran, Will End Qatar Crisis." It argues, as the title implies, that economic considerations in the blockading countries are likely to be the primary motivator of the (perhaps impending) end to the Qatar embargo, rather than common Arab Gulf fear of an increasingly belligerent Iran.

This is because the Qatar blockade has created a split in the GCC fiscal reform agenda, with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain moving forward with unpopular austerity measures -- especially direct taxation -- while Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman have deferred structural changes to the rentier state. The result is a sort of "good cop/bad cop" dichotomy in the Gulf, where some GCC citizens continue to live under the previous, relatively more generous economic regime while others do not. The close GCC fiscal policy coordination of 2015-2017, which was meant precisely to avoid such discrepancies that could lead to …

Survey Attitudes in the Arab World

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Back in 2017 I was awarded a grant from the Qatar National Research Fund for a study of how people in the Arab world experience and view public opinion surveys. Some of the findings have been referenced before in an article I wrote for the Washington Post on the dangerous political weaponization of survey research in the Middle East. But the first proper academic product of the study has now been published (online) in the British Journal of Political Science.

The coauthored paper examines, for the first time in an Arab country, attitudes toward public opinion surveys and their effects on survey-taking behavior. (Believe it or not, the use of surveys to measure attitudes toward surveys is a real thing, and in Western contexts such research dates to the 1950s.) A key conclusion of our study--and a surprising one perhaps--is that Arabs tend to hold quite positive views of surveys, both in absolute terms and relative to non-Arabs.

Indeed, a primary motivation of the study was the audi…

How Qatar Withstood the 2017 Blockade

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The Middle East Journal has published in its Fall 2019 issue an article by myself and a Ph.D. student I am supervising titled "Crisis, State Legitimacy, and Political Participation in a Non-Democracy: How Qatar Withstood the 2017 Blockade."

The article uses rare nationally-representative public opinion data collected just prior to and after June 2017 to assess the effect of the embargo on Qatari views toward the GCC, foreign affairs, and domestic politics. The findings help shed light on the reasons why Qatari public opinion remained supportive of the (non-democratic) political status quo despite concerted efforts by the blockading countries to delegitimize the Qatari leadership and sow internal political discord during the now largely forgotten early stages of the crisis.

Economic Inequality in the Rentier State

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Just published (online) in Political Research Quarterly is a coauthored paper that assesses the effects of perceived inequalities in distribution of welfare benefits in rentier states.  That is, does it matter that some rentier citizens receive more financial patronage than others, so long as everyone is rich in absolute terms?  The answer, as one might expect but contrary to classical rentier theory, is yes. We use data from a 2013 national survey of Qatari citizens conducted by my institute, SESRI, to show that perceived unfairness in distribution—both among citizens and between citizens and expatriates—dampens satisfaction with the rentier subsidies that people do receive.  More specifically, Qataris who perceive high levels of distributional unfairness report substantially lower satisfaction with state benefits, irrespective of their objective wealth (household income).