As part of its regular, annual surveying of Arab public opinion, the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies began to carry out the "Arab Opinion Index" surveys as of February, 2011, to try to highlight the main foci of public opinion on a range of issues related to the revolutions of the Arab Spring. These surveys have been representative, thus far, of 85% of the population of the Arab homeland, and the ACRPS aims to expand its coverage to cover it in its entirety.
Field work in Egypt, Sudan, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia and Yemen has been completed. It remains ongoing in Jordan and Tunisia, and is being prepared in the Gulf States. The first part of these surveys, which covers the public perception of partition amongst the Sudanese, has been published on the ACRPS website. The ACRPS will also look to publish a special series addressing the matters of concern to Arab public opinion.
Arab Public Opinion and the Revolutions
Serendipitously, the first of our surveys has coincided with the rise of the revolutions in the Arab countries. It thus provides an important snapshot of the root causes of the revolts, be they societal, political or economic, as it highlights the views of the Arab peoples with regards to their livelihood patterns as well as the level of basic services, such as health and education services which they enjoy in their local communities and towns and their satisfaction with these services.
This plan to survey Arab public opinion will contribute to understanding how the role of the Arab state in society, in terms of things like health and educational services, and the extent of public trust in such institutions as the judiciary, the police and military, as well as their approval of representative political bodies like legislatures, governments overall and political parties.
In addition to the above, this project will seek to fill the vacuum of knowledge in applied social sciences in the Arab Homeland around a number of very important topics, such as: the usefulness of political participation; Arab public position on democracy and despotism; the news and information sources trusted by Arabs; what the perceived threats to Arab security-on the both the national and individual levels-are; Arab attitudes regarding the recognition of Israel as well as how Arab attitudes to Israeli nuclear proliferation affect their overall view of nuclear armaments.
This programme also seeks to find ways to elucidate the Arab definition of "terrorism" versus "resistance", to understand the degree of concord or otherwise between the public stance of Arab states and their public's views on this issue, which has now surpassed domestic politics and gone on to mould the alliances which Arab states enter into.
The idealized public perception of the relation between the public sphere and religion, will be a further matter of enquiry for the survey, as will be the interplay between religiosity/piety and the preferred forms of political organization.
The survey will delve deeper into this point to understand attitudes to democracy when there is a choice between religiously-inspired and secular groupings. Further, the project will seek to cover matters surrounding political identities in the Arab countries, covering issues such as Palestine, Sudan and Iraq. In addition to that, this project will cover the Arab public opinion on Arab revolutions and their causes.
The wide scope of this project and its planned sustainability make it unprecedented in terms of measuring Arab public opinion. The new programme which was assembled within the ACRPS has now been tasked with the annual repetition of this project, and will disseminate its findings in a statistical bulletin which will serve as a resource for researchers interested in Arab opinion.
Those researchers will thus be able to rely on an Arab source to understand public opinion in the Arab countries, in contrast to their previous reliance on foreign institutions which project their own ideological preconceptions.
The Arab Opinion Project: The Arab Opinion Index 2011
Jordanian Public Perceptions of the Syrian Crisis
Trends in Palestinian and Lebanese Public Opinion toward the Syrian Crisis