The Arab Barometer research network based at Princeton University conducted a survey of Arab opinions on seven key issues on behalf of BBC News Arabic. Some 25,000 people were interviewed in ten Arab countries and the Palestinian territories between late 2018 and spring 2019 and the results, published recently by the BBC, indicate some changing attitudes and confirm some disquieting trends for us in the region.
First, the percentage of people who self-identify as “not religious” has increased from 8% in 2013 to 13% today. This increase is greatest in the “under-30” segment of the population and only respondents in Yemen bucked this trend.
A majority of people surveyed believed that a woman had the right to become a prime minister or president (except in Algeria). Nevertheless, most respondents (including women) believed that at the domestic level, the husbands should be the decision-makers in the home. So, a woman may make decisions at the national level, but should still defer to the husband regarding domestic matters.
Social acceptance of homosexuality is quite low throughout the Arab World – often in the single digits. The survey indicated that the proportion of respondents who favored honor killings was higher than that for homosexuality.
The image of the United States and President Trump in the Middle East remains in the toilet. The US president scored an average favorable rating of 12% while President Putin’s favorability rating was more than double that figure at 28%. The real winner was Turkish President Erdogan, who averaged a 51% rating.
A majority still view Israel as the greatest threat to Arabs in Lebanon (79%), the Palestinian territories (63%) and Egypt (54%). Echoing the antipathy toward the United States in the previous finding, the percentage of respondents who viewed America as the greatest threat is a worrying trend: Iraq (30%), Tunisia (24%), Palestinian territories (24%), Sudan (21%), Libya (17%), and Yemen (15%). Several other countries hovered around ten percent.
A significant percentage (around 20% across the board) of respondents expressed a desire to emigrate. In Sudan, the percentage was about half the population. There is an interactive chart for each country that shows desired destinations from Europe to North America, the Gulf countries, and elsewhere.
There are some surprises here (the percentage of young people giving up on religion and the right of a woman to serve as a national leader). Even so, conservatism and traditional values were reflected in a higher favorability rating for honor killings than for homosexuality. In a region so fraught with war and violence, it isn’t surprising that many want to have a better life somewhere else. And, not surprisingly, decades of US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan coupled with an unbiased resurgence in US support for Israel has given the Arabs a deep mistrust and resentment for US policy and American leaders.