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50% Of Arab Youths See ISIL As Biggest Problem Facing Middle East


The 8th annual Arab Youth Survey has reported an increase, from 37% to 50%, in youths in the Middle East regarding ISIL as the biggest problem facing the region. Just 13% could see themselves supporting ISIL, even if it used far less violence, down from 19% last year.


International polling firm Penn Schoen Berland interviewed 3,500 people aged between 18 and 24 from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, UAE and Yemen. The survey also focused on reflections five years on from the first demonstrations of the Arab Spring, employment opportunities and where Middle Eastern youth are getting their news.


Michael Stephens, Research Fellow for Middle East studies at the Royal United Services Institute, told Yalla that traditional media in the region is in danger of alienating younger elements of the population entirely. “What’s interesting is that Middle East youth in general are shunning traditional media networks. I think there is an understanding that certain channels express the viewpoint of whoever is funding them, and are either unable or unwilling to provide proper balanced journalism.


“This is reflected in the way young Arabs look at their own media, but to some extent I don’t see an alternative ‘neutral’ media source that has appeared as of yet. So the use of social media is still on the rise as a result. I have to say traditional media in the Middle East are in big trouble if they don’t learn to adapt to these new trends … and fast. Particularly newspapers.”


The survey found that people getting news from social media has risen from 25% last year to 32% in 2016. Online news sources saw a 5% rise 45%, while only 17% of young Arabs get information from newspapers, and 6% from magazines – a fall of 5% and 2% respectively.


That is not to say that Stephens sees social media as a uniting force. “Social media has a horrid tendency to polarise debate and create circles of individuals who share and react to content in similar ways. Therefore it tends to have a narrative of reinforcement of beliefs.”


In 2012 72% reported that they felt the Arab world was in better shape since the Arab Spring – in 2016 that figure has fallen to 36%. “As for their views on things like the Arab Spring, it’s not surprising only a third now think it was worth it,” Stephens says, “[There’s] so much turmoil and instability that almost nobody in the region knows how to stop.”

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