Overriding desire for democracy tops agenda in ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey
Young people in Middle East continue to prioritise living in democracy, according to poll of 2,000 young Arabs in 10 countries
Additional poll of 500 Arab youth in five countries reveals strong support for protests balanced with desire for stability
Top concerns: High cost of living, unemployment, human rights, gap between rich and poor

Dubai, UAE; March 15, 2011: The single greatest priority for young people in the Middle East remains living a democratic country, according to the findings of the 2010 ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, the largest study of its kind of the region’s largest demographic. This finding echoes the results of the 2009 survey – conducted well over a year before the start of recent regional unrest – which similarly identified the yearning for greater political participation as the defining characteristic of Arab youth.

This is the key finding of the 10-country survey unveiled today in Dubai and New York. Conducted by leading international polling firm Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), the Third Annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey included 2,000 face-to-face interviews with Arab nationals and Arab expatriates between the ages of 18-24 in the six Gulf Cooperation Council nations (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE), as well as in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. These interviews were conducted in December 2010 and January 2011.

In February and March of this year, in the wake of protests across the region, PSB conducted an additional poll of 500 young people in five countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. These findings reveal that, while the importance of democracy is even more pronounced, it is balanced by a desire for stability. Support of the protests is high among this group, and so is the belief in the positive impact of these movements. However, young people in these countries are markedly less confident that their own countries are moving in the right direction than they were just a few months earlier.

“During this period of seismic change across much of the Arab world, it is more important than ever that we understand the hopes, fears and aspirations of the region’s youth,” said Mark Penn, Worldwide CEO of Burson-Marsteller. “As our 2009 survey showed, and as this year’s report further validates, the highest priority for young people in the region remains participation and representation in the political life of their country of residence. Recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere are the manifestation of this fundamental truth: Arab youth have a deep and enduring desire for democracy.”

“In a region where two-thirds of the population is under the age of 30, policymakers, business leaders, marketers and the media need to understand the priorities of our young people,” said Joseph Ghossoub, Chairman and CEO of the MENACOM Group, regional parent of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller. “We strongly believe that the 2010 ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey should be required reading for everyone who has a stake in the future of this diverse and rapidly evolving region.”

“We are proud to produce, on an annual basis, the largest survey of young people in the Arab world, which reflects our commitment to evidence-based communication,” said Sunil John, CEO of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, the Middle East’s leading public relations consultancy. “From political beliefs to personal values, from online trends to educational aspirations, the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey covers an unmatched array of key issues informing the future direction of the Arab world.”

Other key findings of the Third Annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey include the following insights:

•    The high cost of living is perceived as the most significant challenge, followed by unemployment; in both instances, the level of concern is much higher among youth in non-Gulf states than in Gulf states

•    Arab youth are significantly more concerned about the gap between the rich and poor than they were in 2009, especially in Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia

•    While 63% of GCC youth say they expect to pursue further education, just 14% of non-GCC youth believe the same

•    Arab youth prefer to work in the private sector (47%), rather than the public sector (40%), although Saudi youth (79%) strongly prefer to work for government; more than half of all regional youth say that they intend to start their own business in the next five years

•    80% of Arab youth now say they use the Internet on a daily basis, up from 56% in 2009; social networking is also expanding dramatically

•    Television remains by far both the most popular and most trusted source of news for youth across the region

•    Arab youth say that traditional values are extremely important to them, especially youth in Iraq (94%) and Bahrain (91%)

•    Young Arabs have increasingly favourable views of major global powers, although Gulf and non-Gulf youth have very different perceptions about the dominant powers in the East and West; youth across the region also say that the concept of global citizenship is increasingly important to them

The Third Annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey was unveiled today at high-profile events in Dubai, where ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller is headquartered, and New York, during the annual Global Leadership Meeting of Burson-Marsteller.

For more information, go to www.arabyouthsurvey.com.