Russia becoming more interesting than US for young Arabs

Published May 4th, 2017 - 05:00 GMT
Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump. (AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump. (AFP)

The Arab youth is turning increasingly anti-American and pro-Russian, according to a wide-ranging survey of opinion in the Middle East and North Africa.

Most young people in the region believe President Trump’s election will have important consequences over the next five years. But most also regard him with fear, concern and anger, and see him as anti-Muslim, according to the Arab Youth Survey 2017.

The results of the ninth such survey of Arabs aged between 18 and 25 also saw a widening division between young people in the Gulf, North Africa and the Levant, with those in the latter region overwhelmingly pessimistic about their prospects for education, employment and economic wellbeing.

Sunil John, CEO of Asda’a Burson Marsteller communications group, which organizes the survey, said: “The findings from this year’s survey are profoundly troubling.”

Although the attitude of youth in the region to their own governments will cause concern for many regional policymakers, it is the dramatic turnaround in international outlook that is likely to catch world attention.

Polled just two weeks after President Trump’s inauguration, after his first attempt to ban travelers from some Arab countries, 83 percent of 3,500 young Arabs said they viewed him unfavorably. That compares with 77 per cent for President George W Bush and 52 per cent for President Obama in previous polls. 

Fadi Ghandour, the Jordanian entrepreneur, said: “Trump’s whole demeanour, he is the neighbourhood bully. Why would you like him?” 

Moreover, nearly half (49 percent) said they regarded the US as an enemy, including a majority of those polled in eight countries. Meanwhile, Russia’s influence is on the rise across the region, overtaking the US as the country viewed as the top foreign ally.

Some 21 per cent of those polled said Russia was their main international friend, compared to 17 per cent who said the US. There was no polling taken in Syria for security reasons.

The threat posed by Daesh — last year’s top concern — is seen to be diminishing, with 61 percent of young Arabs saying they thought the terror group is getting weaker. But nearly half (49 per cent) said if Trump’s travel ban were imposed on Muslim countries, it would make it easier for extremists to radicalize and recruit young Muslims.

The survey also found that the UAE has more appeal as a place where young Arabs want to live and work, with 35 per cent choosing it, up 13 points. Some 14 percent chose Saudi Arabia, up 3 points.

By Frank Kane

Copyright: Arab News © 2022 All rights reserved.

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