The survey itself was rather lengthy, far too long to reproduce to any extent here. The results of it form the basis of my dissertation, "Ethnic Conflict and Political Mobilization in the Arab Gulf," and will be published officially sometime in the fall.
In any case, I thought it would be illustrative to share some survey results now, particularly as the insights from the survey project are as relevant now as they are ever likely to be.
The first illustration depicts the extent of Sunni-Shi'i division among ordinary Bahraini citizens regarding the question of government satisfaction. In particular, respondents were asked to rate their level of satisfaction with overall government performance on a 1 to 10 scale, where 1 meant "entirely unsatisfied" and 10 meant "completely satisfied." The Arabic is:
The picture that emerges, then, is one of near perfect ethnic polarization: whereas some 90% of Sunnis report being more satisfied than unsatisfied (i.e., report a score of 5 or above), an almost equal proportion (82%) of Shi‘a express exactly the reverse opinion, with a full 36% replying that they are “not at all satisfied” (“غير راضٍ على الإطلاق”). Thus, at the same time that a clear one-third of Bahraini Shi‘a assign the government the lowest possible grade of overall satisfaction, less than one in ten Sunnis supplies anything more negative than a neutral evaluation of government performance.
An even starker contrast emerges concerning the issue of human rights violations in Bahrain. Respondents were asked to what extent non-respect for human rights in the country is justified in order to maintain national security, today a timely question today indeed. In Arabic:
إلی أي درجة تعتقد أن عدم احترام حقوق الإنسان في البحرين للحفاظ علی الأمن مبرّر؟
At the same time that a combined 64% of Bahrain's Sunnis respond that sacrificing human rights in the name of security is justified to a “high” (25% of respondents) or “moderate” degree (39%), the vast majority (69%) of Shi‘is reject this notion outright, deeming it “not at all” justified, compared to less than one-quarter of Sunnis. Once again, then, we have a clear visual indication of the extent of ethnic division in Bahrain regarding the proper handling of the country’s political opponents and others whose “human rights” would be set aside in the execution of "public safety."
In the end, then, while Bahrain's Sunni-Shi'i gulf in political opinion is perhaps not surprising given the events of previous weeks, it is useful to know the exact extent of this division, and of course to understand its causes.
A common refrain of those analyzing the events unfolding now in Bahrain is that the country’s political conflict, if outwardly one of Sunni against Shi‘i, is rooted actually in the much more mundane—and, for U.S. and Arab leaders, much less worrying—problem of socio-economic inequality; that Bahrain’s Arab Shi‘a tend to be poorer, are disproportionately excluded from public sector jobs, and thus simply have more cause for political complaint than their Sunni counterparts. Were this underlying economic disparity to be rectified through more equitable government policy, so the argument continues, it would go far toward eliminating Bahrain’s apparent, but ultimately epiphenomenal, ethnic divide.
As it turns out, however, there is strong evidence--not least in the results of my Bahrain survey--that this is not the case.
Go to Part 2 (اذهب إلى الجزء الثاني) —>