Three quarters of Arab youth have said their best days are ahead of them, according to the fifth annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, released on Tuesday.
In each of the 15 countries surveyed, a clear majority are optimistic about the future, with a nearly equal percentage of youth in the Gulf and non-Gulf states (76 percent and 72 percent, respectively) saying “our best days are ahead of us”.
Likewise, more than half (58 percent) believe their country is “heading in the right direction” considering the last 12 months, while 55 percent say their national economy is also heading in the right direction.
In the wake of the Arab Spring, regional youth are prouder than ever of their national identity – and they increasingly embrace modern values and beliefs. Nearly nine out of 10 young Arabs (87 percent) feel “more proud to be an Arab” following the uprisings, and 59 percent believe recent changes in their country will have a positive impact on them and their family.
Two-thirds (67 percent) feel “better off” following the events of the Arab Spring and 45 percent believe their national government has become more transparent.
International polling firm Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) completed 3,000 face-to-face interviews with exclusively Arab national men and women aged 18-24 in the GCC, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia, and in three new countries added this year: Morocco, Algeria and Yemen. The survey was conducted between December 2012 and January 2013.
For the second consecutive year, “being paid a fair wage” is the highest priority of Middle East youth, cited by 82 percent of all those surveyed. The importance of fair pay is followed by home ownership, with 66 percent of Arab youth describing “owning their own home” as “very important”. Tellingly, nearly a fifth (15 percent) of young Arabs believe they will never be able to afford their own home.
Rising living costs remain the number one concern of Arab youth, also for the second straight year in the annual study, with 62 percent saying they are “very concerned” about the issue. According to the latest findings, the rising cost of living is a bigger worry than “the economy”, “the threat of terrorism”, “events of the Arab Spring” and “unemployment”.
“Civil unrest” and “lack of democracy” are identified as the main obstacles in the way of the MENA region’s development, while “lack of Arab unity”, the “Palestinian-Israeli conflict” and “lack of political direction” are other barriers. GCC and non-GCC youth are equally concerned about civil unrest, with 44 percent in both sets of countries highlighting the issue as MENA’s biggest obstacle.
Meanwhile, the UAE continues to be regarded as a model nation. Asked to name the country, anywhere in the world, where they would most like to live, Arab youth, as they did in 2012, cite the UAE as their preference. The UAE is the top choice of 31 percent of Arab youth across the 15 countries surveyed, followed by France (18 percent), the United States and Turkey (16 percent).
When asked which country in the world they would most like their country to be like, the UAE again retains its first-place ranking, with nearly a third of all youth (30 percent) voting for that country.
A fifth of Arab youth would also prefer their country to follow the UAE’s model of development; the country ranks first ahead of France, the United and China (each country the preference of 11 percent of respondents), Turkey (9 percent) and Germany (7 percent).
France is the country outside MENA regarded most favourably by Arab youth, followed by Germany and China. But out of France, Germany, China, the UK, the United States and India, only India has experienced an increase in favourability since the last Arab Youth Survey in 2012; 29 percent of youth describe their perception of the country as “very favourable”, up from 28 percent last year.
As the memory of the Arab Spring starts to fade, the overall percentage of young people updating themselves on news and current affairs daily appears to have fallen, from its 2012 peak of 52 percent to 46 percent this year.
Representing a significant shift in media consumption patterns, television is now the primary source of news for 72 percent of regional youth (up from 62 percent in 2012), while 59 percent of all Arab youth rely on online news sources, an 8 percent increase from 2012.
Newspaper readership among Arab youth continues to plummet, from 62 percent in 2011, to 32 percent in 2012 and 24 percent this year. Magazines have experienced a slight gain from last year, but only 8 percent of Arab youth say they get their news from magazines. By comparison, social media is cited as the primary source of news of 28 percent of all Arab youth, up from 20 percent last year.
Television continues to be the most-trusted news source, cited by 40 percent of respondents, but trust in TV has dropped, from 49 percent in 2012 and 60 percent in 2011.
Likewise, newspapers are haemorrhaging trust, with only 9 percent of respondents to this year’s Arab Youth Survey citing print dailies as their most-trusted source of news. Meanwhile, the percentage of Arab youth who say they consider social media to be their “most-trusted source of news” has nearly tripled from 2012 to 22 percent.
Joseph Ghossoub, chairman and CEO of the MENACOM Group, the regional parent company of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, said: “The fifth ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey illustrates that despite the negative media headlines attributed to the region, Arab youth retain a strong sense of hope for the future and are determined to achieve a better life for themselves and their families.
“However, the issues identified by the Arab Youth Survey are persistent and deep-rooted and require the ongoing attention of decision makers across the MENA region.”
Sunil John, CEO of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, added: “Every year ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller conducts the Arab Youth Survey because we understand the importance of providing reliable data here in the Middle East, where research into public opinion is often limited. This substantial investment in thought leadership demonstrates our firm belief in the principle of evidence-based communications.