Young Arabs Overwhelmingly Reject Daesh (ISIS) and Believe the Group Will Fail to Establish an Islamic State

April 12, 2016

Findings From Eighth Annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey Released

  • Lack of jobs and opportunities seen as the number-one recruitment driver for Daesh
  • Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) are top allies in the region but Iran’s influence is on the rise
  • Arab youth split over whether the U.S. is an ally or enemy
  • Five years after fighting for political freedom during the Arab Spring, today most young Arabs prioritise stability over democracy
  • The UAE is viewed as a model country for the fifth straight year, and is the most favoured nation to live in and set up a business

Arab youth say the rise of Daesh (ISIS) remains the single biggest challenge facing the Middle East, but young people in the region overwhelmingly reject the extremist group and believe it will fail to establish an Islamic state. That is the headline finding of the eighth annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, released today.
While three in four Arab youth are concerned about the rise of Daesh, just one in six believes the terrorist group ultimately will succeed. Though concern is rising – with 50 per cent of youth citing it as the biggest obstacle in the region, up from 37 per cent last year – tacit support for the group is declining with just 13 per cent agreeing they could see themselves supporting Daesh even if it did not use so much violence, compared with 19 per cent in 2015.
A quarter of young people believe that a lack of jobs and opportunities are the main recruitment drivers for the terrorist group, although one in four of those surveyed also said they could see no reason why anyone would want to take up with Daesh.
Arab youth cite Saudi Arabia as their biggest ally for the fifth-year running (31 per cent), followed by the UAE (28 per cent) and the U.S. (25 per cent). But views on the U.S. are increasingly polarised. While two-thirds of young Arabs view the country as an ally, one third see the country as an enemy, especially in Iraq (93 per cent), Yemen (82 per cent) and Palestine (81 per cent).
Iran’s increasing regional influence is reflected in the survey, with 13 per cent of young Arabs now viewing the country as their biggest ally – although a small majority of young Arabs (52 per cent) view it as an enemy.
This is an important survey of how Arab youth – the largest and arguably most important demographic in the region – think about the evolving and challenging environment in which they live,” said Donald A. Baer, Worldwide Chair and CEO, Burson-Marsteller.  “Today’s Arab youth are tomorrow’s leaders, business owners, workers and consumers, and the information in this survey helps all of us to reach and understand this group better.”
Five years after the Arab Spring, most young Arabs today are prioritizing stability over democracy. In 2016, just 36 per cent of young Arabs think that the Arab world is better off following the uprisings, down from 72 per cent in 2012 at the height of unrest. The majority of young Arabs (53 per cent) agree that promoting stability in the region is more important than promoting democracy (28 per cent).  At the same time, two thirds are calling for their leaders to do more to improve their personal freedoms and human rights.
Twenty-two per cent of young Arabs, nearly one in four, cite the UAE as the country they would most like to live in, and just as many say it is the country they would most like their country to emulate. The UAE is also the most attractive country for potential entrepreneurs: Of the young Arabs who intend to start their own business in the next five years, a quarter would choose to set up shop in the UAE if they could.
International polling firm and Burson-Marsteller subsidiary Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) conducted 3,500 face-to-face interviews with exclusively Arab national men and women aged 18-24 in the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain; Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Yemen. The interviews were conducted from January 11 to February 22, 2016.
“With 60 per cent of the population below the age of 30, the Arab world is characterised by its vast youth population,” said Jeremy Galbraith, CEO of Burson-Marsteller Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Global Chief Strategy Officer. “The ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey serves as a barometer of the overarching social, political and economic trends that define the Arab world through the eyes of its youth.”
Sunil John, CEO of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, said: “Now in its eighth year, the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey has established itself as a key referral source across the world, and we hope that by providing this data – which we share as part of our commitment to evidence-based communications and our social responsibility – will add to further dialogue about this important segment of society.”
Other key findings from the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey 2016:
Young Arabs believe Sunni-Shia relations are deteriorating and that religion plays too big of a role in the Middle East
Nearly half (47 per cent) of young Arabs believe that relations between the two sects have worsened in the last five years.  More than half of young Arabs (52 per cent) agree that religion plays too big of a role in the Middle East – a notion that extends across the Arab world, with 61 per cent of youth in the GCC, 44 per cent in the Levant (Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine) and  Yemen and 47 per cent in North Africa agreeing.
Young Arabs are divided on the Iranian nuclear deal and the Syrian conflict
While 45 per cent of young Arabs support the Iranian nuclear deal, 39 per cent oppose it. There are also sharp differences as to whether the Syrian conflict is a proxy war, a revolution or a civil war. Overall, a plurality (39 per cent) of Arab youth view the conflict in Syria as a proxy war fought by regional and global powers, while 29 per cent view it a revolution against the Bashar Al-Assad regime and 22 per cent believe it is a civil war among Syrians.
Arab Youth are increasingly concerned about falling oil prices, but most still believe they are entitled to subsidised energy
Two in three young Arabs (66 per cent) say they are concerned about falling energy prices, up from 52 per cent in 2015. Nearly four in five Arab youth (78 per cent) still believe they are entitled to subsidised energy costs, and, if their government were to stop subsidising energy, nearly half (49 per cent) believe the subsidies should be stopped only for ex-pats.
More young Arabs get their daily news online than from TV or print media
While 32 per cent say they get their daily news online, 29 per cent say they watch TV news and just seven per cent read newspapers daily (down from 13 per cent in 2015). The growing role of social media as a news platform is also apparent, with 52 per cent saying they use Facebook to share interesting news articles they read, up from 41 per cent in 2015.
In-depth results from the 8th Annual ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, including survey highlights and a white paper in Arabic and English, are available on


About ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller:
Established in 2000, ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller is the region’s leading public relations consultancy, with 11 fully-owned offices and 10 affiliates across the Middle East and North Africa. A WPP company within the global Burson-Marsteller network, the agency provides services to governments, multinational businesses and regional corporate clients through its seven practices in the sectors of Technology, Finance, Healthcare, Energy & Environment as well as Consumer Marketing, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs. The firm’s services include reputation management, digital communications, media relation, media monitoring & analysis, design services and event management. For more information visit
About Penn Schoen Berland:
Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), a member of Young & Rubicam Group and the WPP Group, is a global research-based consultancy that specialises in messaging and communications strategy for blue-chip corporate, political and entertainment clients. PSB’s operations include over 200 consultants and a sophisticated in-house market research infrastructure with the capability to conduct work in over 90 countries. The company operates offices around the world, including in Washington D.C., New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, Denver, London, Hamburg, Madrid and Dubai, which are supported by in-house field capabilities and fully equipped to provide the complete creative solutions PSB clients need. More at
For further information, please contact:
Sunil John/ Bashar Al Kadhi
ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller
Dubai, UAE
T: 971 4 4507600