Earning a fair wage and owning a home are now the two highest priorities for young people in the Middle East, displacing living in a democracy as the greatest aspiration of youth in the region, according to the findings of the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey 2012.
Informed by 2,500 interviews conducted by international polling firm Penn Schoen Berland in 12 Middle East states one year after the start of the Arab Spring, the findings of the fourth annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey highlight how larger political concerns have now been superseded by more personal, economic anxieties.
“More than a year after the Arab Spring began, it seems that economic issues as well as political issues are now on the minds of the youth of the region,” says Mark Penn, Burson-Marsteller Worldwide CEO and CEO of Penn Schoen Berland. “While there is seemingly widespread support for the political changes sweeping the region, there’s also a clear interest in improving the economic conditions of the region as well.”
The percentage of respondents who said that living in a democratic country is “very important” to them declined by 10 percent in the 2012 survey. This year, 58 percent of Arab youth said that this is “very important” to them, down from 68 percent in 2011.
The study also found that 72 percent of Middle East youth agree that following the events of the Arab Spring the region is better off today. Two-thirds (68 percent) say they are also personally better off now than they were a year ago.
The study also found that 58 percent of respondents believe that Facebook helped the Arab Spring gain support, which outpaces TV news (33 percent), political parties (17 percent) and newspapers (22 percent).
Other key findings include:
• The rising cost of living is the greatest concern among Middle East youth; 63 percent of Arab youth now say that they are “very concerned” about the cost of living, up from 57 percent last year, when this was also their greatest concern
• Forty one percent of Arab youth say that the lack of democracy is the biggest obstacle facing the region; an equal percentage identify civil unrest as the biggest obstacle
• 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 skyrocketed
• A majority of young people in every country surveyed 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
• 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
• Young people in the Middle East today view France most favorably among all foreign nations, with 46 percent of respondents saying they are “very favorable” towards that nation; positive views of China and India have also increased
• Arab youth are following the news far more keenly than ever before – with 52 percent of regional young people now saying they update themselves on news and current affairs every day, up from just 18 percent in 2011
• Television remains the most important source of news for Arab youth, with 62 percent of respondents saying they turn on the TV to get their news – but that number has declined from 79 percent in 2011
• Today, reading or writing blogs is the top online activity among young people in the region, with 61 percent saying they engage with blogs, up from only 29 percent in 2011