There are 200 million young people in the Middle East and North Africa. This white paper provides a snapshot of the ambitions, hopes and fears of young people at a challenging time for the region. The survey asks young Arabs to share their views on a range of topics including: the economy, the impact of the Arab Spring and their media consumption habits. It highlights the lack of appeal for extremist groups like Daesh, the rise of Iran and the continuing issue of under and unemployment. Comments from experts are also included to analyse and contextualise these findings.
The paper draws on survey data from 3500 face-to-face interviews with Arab men and women between the ages of 18 and 24 years. Interviews were completed in Arabic and English. 200 surveys took place in each of the following 16 countries: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia and Yemen. The gender ratio is 50:50 male to female.
Findings from the survey include:
- 77 per cent of those surveyed are concerned about the rise of Daesh and the majority. Lack of jobs and opportunities, a belief that their interpretation of Islam is superior and religions tensions in the region are cited as the top 3 reasons why people may be attracted to Daesh. A quarter of those surveyed do not understand why anyone would want to join the militant group.
- Nearly half of those surveyed believe that Sunni-Shia relations are deteriorating. This response was particularly strong in Yemen, Jordan and Libya. 52 per cent believe that religion plays too big a role in the Middle East.
- Saudi Arabia, UAE and the USA are considered top allies. For the first time in the Arab Youth Survey’s history, Iran has risen to the top 10 with 13 per cent naming the country an ally. Respondents in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine cited Iran more frequently than any other country. Positive perceptions of the US are much stronger in the GCC than in the Levant.
- There is little consensus within the sample on current regional issues. There is a 45/39 percentage split between support and opposition for the Iranian nuclear deal, and opinion is more greatly divided on whether the Syrian conflict is a proxy war (39 per cent), a revolution (29 per cent) or a civil war among Syrian people (22 per cent).
- Optimism, in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring, has been steadily declining. Respondents who feel things are better now than they were before the uprisings have halved since 2012 (from 72 per cent down to 36 per cent). Egyptian respondents is the only Arab Spring country where a majority. Just over 50 per cent agree that promoting stability is more important than democracy.
- Two-thirds of those surveyed agreed that Arab leaders should do more to improve the personal and human rights of their people, and also of women.
- One quarter of those surveyed perceive the UAE as a model country – economically secure, and the most favoured nation to live in and to set-up a business.
- The level of concern about falling oil prices is significantly higher in OPEC countries (80 per cent) than in non-OPEC Arab countries (54 per cent).
- While TV remains the most popular (63 per cent) way of accessing news, newspaper consumption has declined by 45 per cent since 2011. Two-thirds of respondents use WhatsApp on a daily basis.