Monday, May 28, 2012

Results from the Arab Youth Survey

by Salman Hameed

Here is an interesting survey of Arab youth (between 18 and 24) tracking their concerns a year after the start of the Arab Spring uprisings (the findings are out now, but the survey was conducted a few months ago). You can download the summary of the report here (pdf). Here is a graph of some of the key findings (as an interactive flash here) (tip from Vijay Prashad):

Here are the top 10 findings:
  • Fair pay and home ownership displace desire for democracy as top priority
    Young people in the Middle East say that being paid a fair wage and owning their own home are their two highest priorities – displacing their previous number-one priority, living in a democratic country
  • High cost of living remains the greatest concern among arab youth
    One year after the start of the Arab Spring, the rising cost of living is the greatest concern among youth across the Middle East
  • Arab youth say that lack of democracy and civil unrest are the biggest obstacles facing them & the region
    Arab youth identify two equally significant and closely linked obstacles facing the Middle East today
  • Regional youth see the arab spring as a positive development and now feel greater optimism about the future
    Young people in the Middle East feel strongly that the region is better off, and so are they personally, as a consequence of the Arab Spring; they also continue to believe that things in their country are going in the right direction
  • Arab youth feel an increased sense of trust in government but have heightened concerns about corruption
    Nearly three-quarters of Middle East youth believe their government has become more trustworthy and transparent since the events of the Arab Spring – at the same time that concerns about corruption have increased
  • The arab spring will not spread further, according to the region's youth
    Less than one-quarter of Middle East youth believe that protest movements will spread to new countries; among those who believe that such movements will spread, Jordan, Morocco and Algeria are seen as the most likely sites of protests
  • Traditional values are being increasingly challenged by a modern outlook
    A majority of young people in every Middle East state agrees that traditional values are paramount; however, the percentage of youth who say that such values are outdated and need to be replaced continues to increase
  • The uae is seen as a model nation by middle east youth
    When Arab youth look across the region and the world, they see the United Arab Emirates as the country where they would most like to live – and as the country they would most like their own nation to emulate
  • Arab youth see france most favourably among all foreign countries; views of China and India are also increasingly positive
    One year after the start of the Arab Spring, young people in the Middle East have changed some of their views of major foreign powers, and now look more favourably upon France, China and India
  • News consumption skyrockets, tv viewership declines & blogs are booming
    After a period of enormous political change, Arab youth are following the news far more keenly than ever before – but less frequently on television and more often on the Internet; they have also developed a passion for the blogosphere
Couple of things to note here: It is interesting to see that UAE is increasingly seen as a model to emulate. That makes sense with the increasing concern over fair pay and home ownership. But UAE is also an odd case of a high income and low population area - something that is not possible for countries like Tunisia and Egypt. But a surprising thing is that almost 80% of respondents in Bahrain say that their government has become more trustworthy! That seems a bit hard to believe - considering that there is a significant ongoing conflict over there in particular over the mistrust of the government. The survey methodology does indicate that they took care of socio-economic status - so may be there is some fluke here. Also, the Bahrain case may be sharply divided on the Sunni-Shia line and that may also skew the results. And by the way, 86% of Saudis think that their government has become more trustworthy. I guess it depends on where one is starting from.

The other interesting thing is that there is a decreasing importance placed on traditional values. How will that play out with religious values? Will this lead to an emphasis on a more personal form of religion? How will global connectivity impact the society?

This is a time of amazing change in the region. Let's see how things change.

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