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92% of Arab youth desire democracy: survey

Region’s uprisings increased importance of democracy

Around 92 percent of Arab youth placed democracy as the most important change that they would like to see in their countries, making a huge difference from a 2008 survey where they prioritized economic opportunities as most important.

Initially, the survey which included 2,000 participants was made between December 2010 and January 2011, and it showed that 65 percent placed living in a democracy as "very important".

But following the unrest in the region in January, the desire for wanting a democracy increased by 27 percent when 500 additional participants were interviewed.

The 2,000 participants aged from 18 to 24 were 60 percent males, and based in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and, for the first time, Iraq.

With the additional 500 participants, living without the fear of terrorism had also increased, from 58 percent to 77 percent. Domestic stability – measured only in the later survey – was said to be important by 89 percent.

The survey was a joint effort by the Dubai public relations consultancy firm, ASDA’A, and the leading international polling firm, Penn Schoen Berland.

ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller’s survey researched into the concerns, priorities, and future outlook of young Arab adults in the Middle Eastern countries.

“We did not just speak to the wealthy and elite, nor to those most disenfranchised,” Nicholas Nesson, the director of finance at ASDA’A.

“Our top finding of the survey – living in a democratic country, is extremely important. Other things were important too, but that desire for democracy, that enduring desire among young people for their voices to be heard, is reflected.”

More liberal views

The survey also found that political views are becoming increasingly liberal and youth perceive global powers, including the United Kingdom, United States, France, Germany, more favorably, while China and India are viewed somewhat less positively.

In the GCC, 65 percent indicated that being able to find a job was important, while a lower percentage of those living in non-GCC countries said that it was an issue, at 55 percent.

Iraqis were the most concerned about democracy, with 91 percent of young people (nine in 10) saying that living in a democracy was important to them, while young Qataris were the least concerned, at 33 percent.

•65% said living in a democracy was "very important" in 2010
•92% said living in a democracy was "very important" in 2011
•48% ranked rising cost of living as one of the greatest challenges
•43% are concerned about gap between the rich and poor
•61% believe their country is heading in the right direction

Important findings

•A desire for democracy
•Anxiety about the rising cost of living
•Concern over the gap between rich and poor
•Less optimism about economic recovery and the future
•Widening education gaps between the GCC and other Arab countries.
•Increasing preference to work in the private sector and start businesses
•Internet making inroads and growing importance of social media
•Television is the most trusted news source
•Traditional values are paramount and parents' influence grows
•Positive perception of global powers and increasing sense of global citizenship

(Statistics supplied from the UAE-based paper Gulf News)