Arab Youth Lean Toward Russia, Not US as Top Ally - Survey

CC BY-SA 4.0 / B.alotaby / Riyadh SkylineRiyadh Skyline showing the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) and the famous Kingdom Tower
Riyadh Skyline showing the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) and the famous Kingdom Tower - Sputnik International
MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Russian influence in the Arab world is growing, since the majority of young people in the region consider Moscow but not Washington as the top ally, a fresh edition of the annual Arab Youth Survey revealed.

ASDA'A BCW global communications agency, specializing in surveys across the Middle East and North Africa, released on Monday the results of the survey, which PSB firm conducted on January 6-29 among 3,300 people aged between 18 and 24.

ASDA'A BCW President-Middle East Sunil John expressed the belief that the survey reflected concerns and hopes of the young generation.

Rivals and Allies

The pollster asked the interviewees to tell which countries they qualified as rivals and which they considered as allies.

As many as 67 percent of the Arab youth said that they considered Iran as the main adversary, while the United States came second with 59 percent. Meanwhile, only 32 percent of those polled had such concerns about Washington back in 2016.

The survey showed that the United States was losing its reputation of an ally among the Arab youth. While the number of those who qualified Washington as a friend of the Arab world stood at 63 percent in 2016, it fell to 35 percent in 2018, to see an insignificant growth to 41 percent in 2019.

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Meanwhile, the Arab youth's opinion of Russia remains stable. According to this year's edition of the poll, the number of those qualifying Russia as an ally amounts to 64 percent — only a 4 percent decrease year-on-year.

When asked to choose if the United States or Russia was a closer ally for the Arab world, the interviewees were divided. While a total of 38 percent were in favor of the United States, as many as 37 percent supported Russia. However, while 45 percent of those polled living in the Gulf Cooperation Council member states said that they considered Washington as a closer ally, the Eastern Mediterranean region was more supportive of Russia, with 45 percent of those polled from these countries qualifying it as a closer ally.

Russian Media Broadcasting Abroad Contributed to Positive Sentiment

The popularity and impact of Russian media operating abroad, such as the Sputnik news agency and radio network as well as the RT broadcaster, has been steadily growing over the recent years, including in the Arab world.

According to SimilarWeb, a Tel Aviv-based web analytics company, Sputnik entered the top five of all media in Saudi Arabia in December 2018. The fact that Sputnik was among the top five in the country indicates its unprecedented growth in various parameters. In 2018 alone, Sputnik website grew by 124.6 percent in the average monthly number of unique subscribers and by 109.2 percent in the average monthly visitor views.

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A 32-year-old Saudi citizen has confirmed to Sputnik that positive sentiment toward Russia, which the Arab Youth Survey revealed, is also a result of Sputnik’s and RT’s growing popularity among the Arab people.

"Yes, of course having RT and Sputnik operating in the Arabic language increased your [Russia's] reach in the Arab world. As for the positive sentiment, I believe Arabs like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin as he is viewed as a strong man and that he is standing up to the United States", the Saudi national has said.

At the same time, RT Arabic has been number one among the websites of news broadcasters in Arabic in terms of visitor views since March 2018 and in the number of unique visitors since June 2018. It has outstripped Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, CNN Arabic and Sky News Arabia, according to the SimilarWeb estimates.

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As for the number of views on YouTube, RT Arabic has scored almost 1.3 billion views, ahead of all other foreign broadcasters, including CNN Arabic, DW Arabic, Sky News, BBC and Euronews.

RT Arabic’s popularity on Facebook is also burgeoning. The number of its subscribes has currently exceeded 15 million, which is more than than Arabic versions of other international media outlets, including CNN, BBC, Sky News, DW, France 24 and Euronews, have on Facebook.

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