Arab Barometer for 2018-2019: A look at Morocco – Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel (ret.)

Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel (ret.)
July 12, 2019

The Arab Barometer for 2018-2019 has been published, “yielding fascinating insights into how Arabs feel about a wide range of issues” including corruption, economics, extremism, gender, governance, international relations, political institutions, religion, social justice, and youth.

The Arab Barometer claims to be “the largest repository of publicly available data on the views of men and women in the MENA region,” with 50 national surveys conducted since 2006, including more than 70,000 interviews in 15 Arab countries. Approximately 2,400 individuals aged 18 and over were surveyed in each country for 2018-2019, and face-to-face interviews were conducted with a ± 3% margin of error.

The polling in Morocco points to two distinct splits along generational lines. The older generation (60 years and over) continues to maintain its trust in government institutions, while the younger one (18-29 years) shows frustration. More than half of Moroccans surveyed cite the economy, public services, and political governance as the main challenges facing the country, followed by corruption, ranked at 9% of those responding. Just over a third (36%) of Moroccans rated the economy as “good or very good,” while roughly half (53%) of those aged 60 and older agreed that it was “good or very good,” and only 27% aged 18 to 29 saying the same.

More than 70% of the respondents stated that government corruption is a problem in a medium to large extent. Again they are divided by age, with the older generation emphasizing corruption half as much as the younger generation. Furthermore, youth are less likely to believe that government is addressing the issue.

Trust in government has also taken a hit, declining 10% since 2006, from a high of about 40% to a low this year of 29%, with the youth and educated respondents most skeptical of government.

There is some good news in this category, with trust in the military at 78% and police at nearly two-thirds. Interestingly, about 60% of those polled trust the judiciary, which is a dramatic increase since 2006, when just 37% trusted the judiciary and 2016 when the result was 45%.

There is also a significant increase in those who want to emigrate, rising to 44%, 17% higher than in 2016, and again with the highest response coming from the youth. Economic reasons are cited by more than 50% of respondents, followed by educational opportunities, family reunification, and corruption. Not surprisingly, nearly two-thirds want to move to Europe, while others cite the US, Canada, and other Arab countries, most notably the GCC.

The report shows declining support for political Islam in Morocco, again with a generational difference when it comes to religious belief. Youth are more than 40 points less likely to identify as religious, compared with the older generation of 60+ years (24% vs. 68%).

Views supporting separation of religion and government are on the rise. In 2006, 58% of respondents believed that religious leaders should have influence over government decisions. In 2018, it is 21%, heavily influenced by the response of the youth.

On the question of whether men would be better at political leadership, about 50% of Moroccans, Tunisians, and Lebanese agreed, which were lowest in agreeing to this question, while all other countries surveyed are about 20 percentage points higher. This question reminds me of a statement made by His Majesty King Mohammed VI in one of his first speeches as King, in August of 1999, when he said:

“How can we hope to achieve progress and prosperity when women, who make up half of society, see their interests flouted, regardless of the rights with which our holy religion has placed them on an equal footing with men? These are rights that correspond to their noble mission, rendering them justice against any inequity or violence to which they may be subjected, even though they have reached a level that allows them to compete with men, be it in the field of science or employment.”

These words serve as a good guide to address the region’s many challenges, starting with the empowerment of all citizens, especially women.

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