The 7th annual Arab youth survey has shown that common attitudes of the past decade are shifting drastically away from the Israel-Arab conflict.
By Matt Wanderman
A new survey of Arab youth promises to be the clearest insight yet into public attitudes in the Middle East today. The Seventh Annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey found that young Arabs are opening up to new ideas and are changing their attitudes towards the West.
The pollsters questioned 3,500 Arabs between the ages of 18 and 24. The respondents came from 16 different countries and were split evenly between men and women.
Among the most significant findings for an Arab world already wracked by political upheaval was that faith in local systems is falling quickly. Only 38 percent believe that the Arab world is in a better position now than it was before the Arab Spring, compared to 54 percent last year and 70 percent in 2013.
Youths from all countries expressed skepticism about democracy; 39 percent said it would never work in the Middle East, while only 36 percent said it might. Few expressed much of an interest in democracy at all. Only 15 percent said that “lack of democracy” is the biggest obstacle facing the region. The same question received a 38 percent positive response last year.
Instead, the most common fear was the rise of ISIS, which received 37 percent of the responses.
Perhaps the most surprising finding was that the common Arab bugbear, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was placed only fourth in the rankings, being the primary concern for only 23 percent of those questioned. Apart from ISIS, in second and third place were terrorism (32%) and unemployment (29%).
When questioned solely about ISIS, 73 percent of respondees said they were worried, and only 19 percent did not express concern. A significant element of that concern probably stems from a lack of faith in the various governments’ ability to handle jihadists; less than half of respondees said they were confident in their government’s ability to deal with ISIS.
Misgivings about governments are not limited to security. Outside of the Gulf states, only one in three youths said they are confident in their government’s ability to handle unemployment.
Other surprising results dealt with the perceptions of other countries.
Europeans are increasingly concerned about unfettered immigration from the Muslim world, but that is no longer reflected in the poll. The United Arab Emirates has been rated as the ideal country for the past three years, but the runners-up indicate that Arab youths are less interested in many of the headline-grabbing parts of Europe. France was the second most popular choice for where people would like to live in 2012 and 2013, but came in fourth in 2014 and seventh in 2015. The only other EU countries in the top ten this year were Germany and the UK.
On the other hand, the United States is gaining in popularity. It is now the second most popular choice for emigration, emulation, and as an ally.
The results should not be surprising. These youths have grown up in a new Middle East, one unfamiliar to many of their elders. The oldest were only 11 when the war in Afghanistan began, while the youngest were still not speaking in sentences when America invaded Iraq. The repercussions from the Arab Spring have lasted up to nearly a quarter of their lives.
At the same time, the youths questioned have no memory of many of the most memorable events between Israel and the Palestinians. Even the oldest respondees were only a few months old when the First Intifada ended. They have no memory of a life before the Oslo Accords or Rabin’s assassination. The Second Intifada, with its motifs of suicide bombers and children throwing rocks are distant memories.
America, while unpopular in the Middle East for its forays in Afghanistan and Iran, is now returning to fight ISIS in Syria and (again) Iraq. Rather than introducing democracy, as the Bush Doctrine proposed, Obama claims to want only to stop jihadists; whatever follows is up to local residents. As a result, the perception now is of America as a helper, rather than an invader.
View original Arutz Sheva publication at: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/194557#.VTzHjpNbg8J