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Nearly two-thirds of young Arabs say the tensions between Iran and Israel and the West will lead to military conflict: 15th annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey

  • Two-thirds say the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will not be resolved soon, while 4 in 10 (39%) say it does not get attention it deserves from the Arab world
  • Reflecting shifting geopolitical allegiances, Arab youth say Turkey and China are the top non-Arab allies of their country but the US still dominates Middle Eastern affairs
  • Most Arab youth oppose normalisation of ties with Israel but a majority in the UAE, Egypt and Morocco favour closer diplomatic relations with the country

DUBAI, UAE, June 20, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Around two-thirds of young Arabs (60%) say that relations between Iran and Israel and the West will deteriorate into military conflict. Many expect the Iranian regime to become even more authoritarian in the future, with nearly a third saying Iran will experience more civil unrest and possibly a coup.

Top findings from the 15th annual ASDA'A BCW Arab Youth Survey

The findings this year also highlight the shifting geopolitical allegiances in the Arab world, with the region’s youth saying they view Turkey and China as stronger allies of their country than traditional powers such as the United States and Russia.

These are some of the key insights from the landmark 15th annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey, unveiled today by ASDA’A BCW, the Middle East & North Africa’s leading communications consultancy. The survey is the largest study of its kind of MENA’s largest demographic, its 200 million plus youth.  This year’s findings show young Arab men and women ‘Living a New Reality’, the overarching theme of the 2023 survey.

ASDA’A BCW commissioned SixthFactor Consulting, a leading research company, to conduct face-to-face interviews with 3,600 Arab citizens aged 18 to 24 in their home nations from March 27 to April 12, 2023. The largest sample in the survey’s history was equally divided between men and women in 53 cities across a total of 18 Arab states, including for the first time South Sudan. The interviews were deliberately conducted face to face rather than online to maximise the accuracy of the research and to reflect the nuances of Arab youth opinion across the region as much as possible.

The 75-year Palestinian-Israeli conflict won’t be resolved soon

Arab youth are also pessimistic about the prospects for peace in the Palestinian Territories, with most surveyed saying the 75-year conflict between Palestinians and Israelis won’t be resolved within the next five years.

Although a majority (60%) of GCC citizens said a positive resolution is ‘likely’, over two-thirds (69%) in Levant, and more than half (57%) in North Africa, say it is ‘very unlikely’ or ‘somewhat unlikely’ that the conflict will be resolved soon.

Moreover, nearly four in 10 (39%) young Arabs overall believe that with rising national priorities, the conflict does not receive adequate attention from the Arab world, rising to more than half (51%) in the Levant region, which includes the Palestinian Territories.

A divergence of views on closer ties with Israel

Most Arab youth oppose the normalisation of ties between Arab countries and Israel but a majority in United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Morocco favour closer diplomatic relations with the country.

When young Arabs were asked whether they supported or would endorse their government’s decision to normalise diplomatic ties with Israel, three-quarters (75%) in the UAE, a signatory of the Abraham Accords, said they supported normalisation. A third in Bahrain, the first country to sign the agreement, said the same. In Sudan, however, the fourth Arab nation to establish full diplomatic ties with Israel, 94% oppose it.

Despite the Abraham Accords signalling a thaw in relations between Israel and several Arab countries, 86% of Arab youth overall say they view Israel as a ‘strong enemy or somewhat of an enemy’, while 57% say the same about Iran.

Shifting geopolitical allegiances

Among non-Arab nations, 82% of Arab youth named Turkey as a ‘strong ally’ or ‘somewhat of an ally of their country’, followed by China (80%), the United Kingdom (79%), Germany (78%) and France (74%). The US ranked seventh, with 72% votes, just below India at 73%.

The US and UK, however, continue to be seen as a ‘strong ally’ by more than half of those surveyed, while two-thirds (66%) said America would be a stronger ally of their nation than Russia or China in the next five years. Russia, a top-three ally in last year’s study, now ranks in ninth place, rated as an ally by 63% of respondents, below Pakistan (69%).

At the same time, they say the US continues to exert the most influence in the Arab world. Compared to only 3% naming Turkey as having the most influence, and 4% identifying China, a third of young Arabs (33%) say the US is the most influential, followed by the UAE (11%), Saudi Arabia and Israel (both on 10%), and Russia (8%).

However, most would like the US to be less involved in Middle Eastern affairs, with nearly two-thirds across the GCC, North Africa and the Levant countries saying they ‘strongly or somewhat support’ US disengagement from the region.

Views on ‘model nations’

For the 12th consecutive year since young Arabs were asked to name the countries they consider ‘model nations’, they have said the United Arab Emirates is the country they would most like to live in and the one they would most like their own to be like. The United States and Canada were ranked second and third, respectively, for the third year running.

Significantly, three GCC nations, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, appear in Arab youth’s top-five list of model nations for the first time in nine years. Young Arab men and women now say they would rather live in Qatar than the United Kingdom, while Saudi Arabia ranks joint-fifth with the UK in their list of countries they most want their own to emulate.

Nearly one in four Arab youth (24%) named the UAE as the country they would most like to live in, followed by the US (19%), Canada (19%), Qatar (14%) and the United Kingdom (13%). The UAE was also named the country most Arab youth want their own to emulate, again for the 12th straight year. The UAE was identified by 22% of young Arab men and women overall, ahead of the US (19%), Canada (16%), Qatar (15%) and Saudi Arabia and the UK in joint fifth place (11%).

As in previous surveys, a variety of factors account for the UAE’s favoured-nation status. According to Arab youth in the 18 states surveyed this year, its top-five attributes are its safety and security (41%), growing economy (28%), effective and ‘visionary’ leadership (24%), clean environment (22%), and ease of starting a business (20%).

Sunil John, President, MENA, BCW and Founder of ASDA’A BCW, who has led the survey over the past 15 years, said: “The annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey has proven to be an indispensable resource for global decision makers in government and business seeking a clearer understanding of a region that is increasingly influential in world affairs, yet still an enigma for many. Once again, the study sheds new light on the Arab world’s changing geopolitical landscape.”

“While several conflicts in the region, such as in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen are ebbing, the longest-standing concern – the Palestinian-Israeli issue – continues to be in a deadlock. This is further exacerbated by the engagement of Iran in the region, in addition to the recent civil unrest in Sudan,” said John. “But the overall de-escalation of conflicts points to the fact that countries across the Middle East are overcoming their differences through dialogue. This will help unlock the true potential of the region, a strong economic bloc of over 400 million people.”

In the coming weeks, ASDA’A BCW will publish insights under the other five themes covered in the study: My Politics, revealing what young Arab say about the performance of their government; My Livelihood, detailing their views on education, jobs, and their finances; My Identity, covering religion and issues of personal identity; My Aspirations, the hopes of young Arabs for the future; and My Lifestyle, highlighting their habits, pastimes, and the media they consume.

Findings on climate change, mental health and gender rights will also be disclosed, making this year’s study the most extensive in the survey’s history. The overall theme of the 15th edition of the ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey is ‘Living a New Reality’.

To know more about the findings, log on to

Notes to Editors:

About the ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey

The annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey, now in its 15th year, is the largest study of its kind of the Arab world’s largest demographic, its over 200 million youth. The survey fills a vital gap in critical data and insights on this very important demographic segment. The evidence-based insights inform governments, the private sector, multilateral institutions and academics on policymaking and business strategy.

The 15th annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey explores the hopes, fears and aspirations of young Arabs in 53 cities in 18 states in the Middle East and North Africa region. The face-to-face interviews were conducted by professional interviewers from March 27 to April 12, 2023, covering 3,600 young Arabs aged 18 to 24. The cohort was split equally between men and women.

The survey covered five Gulf Cooperation Council states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE), North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia and South Sudan – newly added this year), and the Levant region (Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, Syria) and Yemen.
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ASDA’A was founded in 2000 as an independent communications firm by Sunil John, who leads the agency in its 24th year. In 2008, WPP (NYSE: WPP) acquired a majority stake in ASDA’A and merged it with BCW, one of the world’s top three communications firms.  The agency has a team of nearly 200 professionals across its seven wholly owned offices. With an additional 11 affiliates, ASDA’A BCW covers 16 countries across the Middle East and North Africa. The agency serves over 100 retained clients and is the leading PR consultancy in the MENA market.

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About BCW

BCW, a leading global communications agency, is in the business of moving people on behalf of clients. BCW partners with clients in the B2B, consumer, corporate, crisis management, healthcare, public affairs, purpose and technology sectors to set strategic direction for all communications and create powerful and unexpected ideas that earn attention. Through an Earned-Plus offer – earned media plus paid media, creative technology, data, AI and an expanding suite of innovative capabilities – BCW moves people with power and precision to move its clients forward. BCW is a part of WPP (NYSE: WPP), a creative transformation company.

Top findings from the 15th annual ASDA'A BCW Arab Youth Survey

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