I can't believe it but collection of data for my research started today and I could not have asked for a better day. Today we tested our survey and collected as much data as we could and actually had to turn people away at the end of the day. The survey was excellent and people had no problems responding to it and understanding what was being asked. Based on this test run we feel with a few modifications we are ready to implement it with a random selection of participants. My two research assistants were fantastic and dare I say that we actually had fun working today. I have never felt more like a 'social scientist' than I did today--have hypotheses, getting data, will test. The weather cooperated and was cloudy although pretty muggy.
Thinking back, the first proposal I wrote to come here and do this research goes back to June 2014. Indeed it has been a long process and the specific proposal I wrote after I got here and formed a team has taken a long time to develop and I have received invaluable feedback from top methodologists in the U.S. who have provided advice that has made this project much, much better.
The core of the research is investigating attitudes towards political candidates using a survey experiment and conjoint analysis. We are studying if people show preferences for candidates with elite backgrounds or not. Specifically, we are testing competing arguments about African politics namely that on one hand people should not prefer elites based on the notion that the elite maintain a system that benefits them and really no one else in Africa, but on the other hand there is a deep reverence for elitism in Africa and so there might be support for elite based politics from the people themselves not only the elite. If the latter holds in the data then it will point out some real misunderstandings about African politics among folks outside of Africa.
We also our testing several other arguments in our survey-experiments including if women are more likely to prefer female candidates, and if people of particular religious backgrounds are also more likely to prefer candidates that share their same religion. The Ivory Coast is an excellent place to test these ideas as it has a diverse population with large Christian and Muslim populations as well as others.
Today we covered a neighborhood called Petit Paris and we will continue to cover other neighborhoods in the next few weeks. When we finish here we will head to another part of the country to further test our ideas and eventually to East Africa.
The pic in the middle below is of my two research assistants before we went out and the pics on the left and right are of collecting data.
John Doces. Je vous écris de la Côte-d'Ivoire en Afrique.