Vast majority of Arab youth want right to vote

Some 92 percent of youngsters say democracy is a key issue for them in regional survey
Vast majority of Arab youth want right to vote
Iranian protests demand the right to vote during a demonstration outside the Iranian consulate in Dubai on June 15, 2010
By Shane McGinley
Tue 15 Mar 2011 11:42 AM

Arab youths want the right to vote, a poll conducted in key countries across the Middle East has found.

More than 90 percent of respondents in the third annual ASDA’A Burston-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey said democracy was very important to them.

In Iraq, 91 percent of respondents said the right to vote was a key concern, a figure that dropped to less than a third in the Gulf state of Qatar.

In the UAE – which last week saw 160 Emiratis petition the country’s ruler for free and democratic elections - 75 percent of those polled wanted the right to vote.

The poll surveyed Arab youngsters aged between 18-24 years, across 10 Middle East countries.

An initial 2,000 interviews were carried out between December 2010 and January.

A further 500 interviews were conducted in February and March following the political unrest in the region, in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Bahrain and Iraq.

In protest-hit states such as Lebanon and Jordan, the majority of respondents in the second round of interviews cited a lack of democracy as a key trigger factor in the uprisings.

In Jordan, 98 percent named democracy as a key issue, and 97 percent of those in Lebanon.

In Bahrain, which has seen nearly two months of street protests demanding political reform, just 56 percent of respondents saw democracy as a factor behind unrest.

Just over half of those polled in the Gulf kingdom – 54 percent – wanted the right to vote.

Rising demand for political change in the region may be partly attributed to the percentage of Arab youngsters concerned about social factors.

More than half of those polled – 52 percent – said crime was a worry, while nearly 60 percent cited fears about the quality of education in the Middle East.

Some 59 percent of respondents said the lack of affordable housing in the region was a concern, while 65 percent felt a shortage of quality healthcare would impact on the region.

Some 70 percent of youngsters said the uprisings sweeping the Arab world would have a positive outcome.

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