Two-thirds of young Arabs view Iran as an enemy, 11th Arab Youth Survey 2019 shows

September 30, 2019

Survey’s findings debated at top international think tank Chatham House
Two-thirds of young Arabs view Iran as an enemy, according to findings from the 2019 ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey which were debated at a special event for academics, journalists, policymakers and diplomats held at the London think tank Chatham House last week.
The event, “2019 Arab Youth Survey: Pragmatism, Frustration and Optimism,”featured a presentation of key findings from this year’s Survey, now in its 11th edition, including new data about young Arabs’ attitudes towards European nations and a panel discussion, chaired by Dr SanamVakil, Senior Research Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House.

With tensions running high in the Middle East after the strikes on Saudi Arabian oil installations on September 14, 2019, an attack which many observers are blaming on Iran the event proved to be an opportune moment to revisit Arab youth’s attitudes to their perceived allies and enemies. The Survey, conducted in January 2019, reveals that 67 per cent of young Arabs view Iran as an enemy, with 32 per cent viewing it as an ally.
The data reveals significant differences in perception based on region: in the GCC states, 87 per cent view Iran as an enemy, with just 13 per cent saying ally; while in the Levant, youth are equally split, with 51 per cent saying enemy against 49 per cent saying ally. In North Africa,64 per cent saw Iran as an enemy, with 35 per cent saying ally.
New findings from the Survey reveal that young Arabs are generally favourable towards European nations, with three European nations among the top 10viewed as a strong ally. France is viewed as an ally by 75 per cent of those surveyed, closely followed by Germany with 73 per cent and the UKat 68 per cent. Arab youthattitudes towards the USare much more polarised, with more than half (59 per cent) considering the US to be an enemy of their respective countries.

  • Founder of ASDA’A BCW, Sunil John, presents findings from the 11th Annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey at an event at Chatham House in London on September 23, 2019.

Closer to home, 93 per cent of young Arabs seeing the UAE as their strongest ally, while 80 per cent seeing Saudi Arabia as their biggest ally – showing a high favourability towards the GCC.
Participating in the panel Sunil John, Founder, ASDA’A BCW, and President, Middle East, BCW said, “We’re moving from the power hubs of Baghdad and Cairo to those of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.”
In addition to John, the panel, which explored the potential of harnessing the findings of the Arab Youth Survey to steer policy- and decision-making and to shed light on young people’s attitudes towards countries around the world,  comprised  Dr Simon Mabon, Senior Lecturer in Politics, Philosophy and Religion, University of Lancaster; and Sara Masry, an independent consultant. Dr Mabon provided his expert opinions on religion and regional conflicts, while Masry provided strategic insight into Arab societies and the role of social media among Arab youth.

  • (L-R) Founder, ASDA’A BCW Sunil John with Dr. Simon Mabon, Senior Lecturer at Lancaster University; Sara Masry, independent consultant; and Dr. Sanam Vakil, Senior Research Fellow, Chatham House at a panel discussion at Chatham House in London on September 23, 2019. The panel discussed findings from the 11th Annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey on pressing issues such as religion, international relations, conflicts, and drug use.

Addressing the audience at the event, John said, “We are proud to bring our research on the largest demographic of the Arab world to one of the foremost think-tanks in the world. To bring about any progressive change, a dialogue must happen.This dialogue here today at Chatham House heralds the larger discourse of an evolving global future that has, till now, oftenfailed to hear the voice of Arab youth.”
The Arab Youth Survey is the largest study of its kind into the region’s largest demographic: its youth. Every year, ASDA’A BCW generates evidence-based insights that provide governments, the private sector, media and civil society with critical information and analysis to inform decision-making and policy formation and build greater awareness of Arab youth.
The full survey data is available at
ASDA’A was founded in 2000 as an independent agency by Sunil John, who continues to lead in the agency’s 20th year. In 2008, WPP acquired a majority stake in the firm and ASDA’A became an integral part of the Burson-Marsteller global network. After the recent merger of Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe to create Burson Cohn & Wolfe, the firm is now ASDA’A BCW. Today, the agency employs over 160 professionals across nine wholly-owned offices and eight affiliates in 15 Middle East & North Africa (MENA) countries. The Agency now serves more than 100 retained clients in the region and is the leading PR consultancy in MENA.
Now in its 11th year, the annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey is one of the most important pieces of research produced in the Middle East and offers unique insight into the attitudes and aspirations of the region’s biggest demographic.With 65 per cent of the Arab population under the age of 30, the Survey presents evidence-based insights into the attitudes of Arab youth, providing public and private sector organisations with data and analysis to inform their decision-making and policy creation.The survey is the largest of its kind of the region’s largest demographic, based on face-to-face interviews with 3,300 Arab men and women aged 18 to 24, and covers five of the Gulf Cooperation Council states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE), North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia) the Levant (Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and the Palestine territories) and Yemen.
For further information, please contact:
Margaret Flanagan
Tel +971 4 4507 600