A year following the eruption of the Arab Spring, young Arabs now say pocketbook issues are more important than living in a democracy, according to a survey released today by WPP’s Penn Schoen Berland.
Fifty-eight percent of respondents cite “living in a democratic country” as “very important” to them, down 10 percentage points since the 2011 survey.
“Being paid a fair wage” (cited by 82 percent) is the top yearning of the 18-to-24 age bracket in a dozen countries (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Libya, Lebanon, Jordan, Qatar and Oman). “Owning my own home” (65 percent) follows.
The partial success of the Arab Spring, which brought down governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, combined with bloody crackdowns in Bahrain and Syria, may be a reason for the drop in the importance of living in a free country category.
Seventy-two percent of the nearly 2,500 people interviewed feel the Arab world is better off following the uprisings. Seventy-one percent believe things will get even better five years from now.
The U.S. did not benefit from the revolts. It only tops India in the favorability department by an overall 31 percent to 28 percent margin. Egyptians (39 percent), Libyans (38 percent) and Kuwaitis (37 percent) hold a favorable view of this county. Oman (21 percent), Lebanon (23 percent) and Bahrain (26 percent) are least favorable to America. Only a third of Iraqis think favorably of the U.S.
China, a major investor in the region, showed the biggest jump in favorability, up 14 points to 41 percent. Arab youth give France the highest favorable rating (46 percent). Germany trails at 44 percent.
The PSB poll finds that social media came of age during the Arab Spring. Nearly six-in-ten (58 percent) of respondents credit Facebook for building support for the political movement. That trounced TV news (33 percent), newspapers (22 percent) and political parties (17 percent).
Arab governments will face tremendous pressure to stamp out corruption and spur economic growth to meet demands from the vast number of young people in the region. The United Nations estimates that 54 percent of the Arab world's 360M people are under the age 25, a third of that group is under 15. "This will pose challenges to Governments, many of which are already straining to provide education and employment to large cohorts of children and youth," says the United Nations' "Population Levels, Trends and Policies in the Arab Region: Challenges and Opportunities" published in 2010.
The Arab Spring contributed mightily to those challenges.