Internet Media Use & Middle Eastern Public Opinion

VIENNA, Virginia, April 7, 2010 – The Marketing Research Association (US) recently published D3 Systems’ brief on “Internet Media Use and Middle Eastern Public Opinion” by Karl Feld and Brittany Shanks. The article, published in Alert! Magazine, explores changes in media availability and consumption among Arabic-speaking adults in the Middle East. Results indicate new media usage, such as the Internet, has increased dramatically in recent years.

Large majorities of Internet users are interested in using the Internet as a source of news and information. The article indicates that frequent Internet news users, who express a negative outlook about the future, tend to gravitate towards web sites that are not part of the mainstream media for their news. These users also tend to be more interested in news that comes from outside their own countries in comparison to Internet news users who have a more positive outlook. The majority of these users are young, male, middle-class Iraqis living in Iraq.

The Internet is a truly borderless medium. In many countries the distribution of nationalities using the Internet for news is a heterogeneous mix. Not surprisingly, the Gulf States of Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE show high percentages of Arab expatriate Internet news users. These users are almost all from other Middle Eastern states. Any analysis of Internet news users should consider nationality and geography as separate factors. Country of residence and nationality are not synonymous in the Internet news use world.

Fortunately, language use is nearly universal. Ninety percent of these frequent Internet news users speak Arabic in their homes, 4% use English, and 4% French. Despite this, 52% report understanding English well enough to listen or watch and understand English language news programs. In most countries around three-quarters of Arabic-speaking Internet news users understand English.

The research used in this article was conducted by D3 Systems for the BBC World Service following its launch of the new BBC Arabic television station. The study examines the media habits of respondents from 19 Arabic-speaking countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The survey, conducted from March 24 through April 26, 2008, took place simultaneously by RDD telephone in 18 countries and face-to-face in Iraq. The sample consists of randomly selected male and female Arabic speakers aged 15 years and above. A weight has been applied for examination of aggregated regional data. Each country has been weighted to reflect their actual percentage of 15 year olds within the region. A total sample of n=15,552 resulted, with a margin of error of ± 1% at the 95% confidence level for regional analysis.