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Most Arabs get news from TV

An estimated 78 percent of Arabs still get their news from television

By Diana Al-Jassem / 12 June 2013

An estimated 78 percent of Arabs still get their news from television, with only 6 percent searching for it on new media platforms, according to Arab Index, an annual report issued by the Arab Center for Research and Studies.

The survey was carried out in 14 Arab countries to determine Arab public opinion on a variety of topics including economic, social and political rights; and trends in public opinion on issues of democracy, political participation, media and civil rights.

The survey included Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Kuwait during the period between July 2012 and last March. Libya and Kuwait participated for the first time. Researchers conducted face-to-face interviews with 21,350 respondents.

The poll is considered the largest survey project in the Arab region for the second successive year, and was undertaken in collaboration with research centers and teams in the countries surveyed.

One of the surprising results was that most Arabs, 78 percent of those surveyed, still get their news from traditional television news channels. Only 6 percent looked to Twitter, Facebook and other social networking and news sites for information on current affairs. In addition, only 4 percent read daily print media for their news.

A total of 55 percent of respondents said they do not use the Internet, compared with 42 percent who said they did. Despite the widespread use of Twitter users due to the participation of many politicians and celebrities, Facebook was still the most popular social networking site, used by 62 percent of respondents.

Only 23 percent of Internet users have a Twitter account. The majority of Arabs on Facebook and Twitter use the platforms to talk about political issues.

Respondents in Saudi Arabia are the biggest Twitter users among the Arab countries surveyed.

Sna’a Mo’mena, a Saudi consultant at a Saudi television channel, said the survey was surprising because she thought most Arabs use new media as their primary information source.

“I expected more than two-thirds of Arabs to be using new media for their news. I'm shocked by the survey result."

However, she said that Internet usage in Arab countries was determined by accessibility and price. "In Saudi Arabia, for example, there is no doubt that most Saudis and expats use smart phones and tablets to get news, and to get updates on breaking political news. But in other countries the use of these new developed tools is still limited,” she said.

“I really encourage citizens to keep getting their news from international media, especially television channels. I still have suspicions about the news being spread by new media. However, many news agencies have tried to create new media accounts to attract large numbers of users. This is a needed step, but so far we have not seen any media agency succeed in promoting its news through new media.”

According to the survey, Arab public opinion is divided regarding the separation of religion from politics. However, 21 percent of Arab citizens consider themselves religious, 67 percent consider themselves religious to some extent, while 8 percent say they are not religious.

The majority of those who are religious reject the religious views of those who believe in other faiths and have different interpretations of religion. However, they do not have a problem in dealing with non-religious people on economic, social and political issues.

The Arab Spring has seen the rise of Islamists parties and individuals in various countries including Egypt and Tunisia. Despite the increasing power of the Islamists, half of those surveyed have no worries about this, with 16 percent saying they have many concerns and 20 percent with some concerns.

Half of the Arabs surveyed are more concerned about economic issues including unemployment, poverty and high prices. While 11 percent said safety was their primary concern, 10 percent believe that political instability is the most important problem. In addition, 22 percent of those surveyed want to leave their countries to improve their economic situation.

FACTS:

Arab citizens define democracy as the following:

Democratic political and civil liberties: 36 percent

Equality and justice among citizens: 17 percent

Rotation of power and the separation of powers: 15 percent

Ensuring security and stability: 6 percent

Improving economic conditions: 3 percent

 

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