Measuring attitudes on gender equality and domestic violence in the Arab context - The role of framing, priming and interviewer effects

Ann-Kristin Reitmann, Micheline Goedhuys, Michael Grimm & Eleonora Nillesen


Eliciting attitudes on sensitive topics such as women empowerment is subject to a wide range of measurement challenges such as social desirability bias and refusals. Even subtle changes in wording or context can profoundly affect how respondents answer to a question. Using data from two randomised experiments built into a nationwide representative household survey in Tunisia, we analyse the effects of (i) framing and (ii) priming on attitudes towards gender equality and domestic violence in the Arab context. Moreover, we look at impact heterogeneity with respect to the interviewers' gender and perceived religiosity. Our first experiment shows that questions on attitudes towards decision-making power invite stronger responses towards gender inequality when framed in an inequality frame. In our second experiment we find that attitudes towards domestic violence are susceptible to an audio primer. Oral statistical information about the incidence of domestic violence in Tunisia leads to lower support for domestic violence among the male subsample but has no effect on women. Lastly, impacts co-vary with interviewer characteristics. While female interviewers seem to trigger less justification for domestic violence on average, we find the opposite effect for female interviewers wearing a hijab, arguably signalling stronger perceived religiosity and social norms aligned with (more) tolerance of domestic violence. We discuss the implications of our findings for development research on gender attitudes and behaviour in gender-sensitive contexts.

Keywords: gender equality, domestic violence, framing, priming, interviewer effects, survey experiment, MENA region

JEL Classification: C83, C99, D91, O12

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