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JustHere | December 5, 2016

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NUQ survey: National optimism rises across the Middle East, while support for free speech falls

Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) has released the latest edition of Media Use in the Middle East, a comprehensive survey that provides a window on the changing political and social climate in six countries: Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and UAE.

For the first time, this year’s report explores how attitudes and behaviors have changed since NU-Q’s first region-wide survey in 2013. The report, including an interactive tool that allows custom exploration of the data, is available at mideastmedia.org.

Image 1_English  The report explores how diverse countries in a volatile region are turning toward national media, content shared via social media networks, and Arabic language, and distancing from pan-Arab news and English language content:

  • Saudis are twice as likely to say international news is biased against their country vs. toward it (38% see bias against, 17% toward), with similar views in Lebanon (48% see bias against, 26% toward); in the Gulf nations of Qatar and UAE, more say their countries are recipients of favorable bias than negative bias (in Qatar, 19% see bias against vs. 7% toward, UAE 48% vs. 3%, respectively).
  • Perceived credibility of national news media rose 5 percentage points since 2013 (39% to 44%), and the belief that media in their country can operate independently without interference from officials rose 7 percentage points (35% to 42%). At the same time, 6 percentage points fewer saw improvements in the quality of reporting in the Arab world (56% to 50%).
  • Use of media in English has decreased among all age groups, especially on the internet; fewer people (by 8 percentage points) say they use English to access the internet (41% to 33%).

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Findings may reflect a general desire for stability among people in the region who have seen the Arab uprisings go increasingly sour, alongside resilient, connected, and politically empowered online cohorts:

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  • Egypt, the most politically tumultuous of the countries surveyed, is the only country in which there was an increase in support for tighter internet regulation among the total population (42% to 49%)
  • People don’t necessarily think the “democratizing” effect of the internet is a good thing: nationals who think online activity can increase political influence are 12 percentage points more likely to want tighter regulation of the internet (62% vs. 50%).
  • Those who consider the internet a source of political empowerment may still be exercising that power, as they are more active on social media (13 percentage points more likely to post on social media daily: 71% vs. 58%) and are 18 percentage points more likely to share news content on social media than those who don’t (68% vs. 50%).
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