February 20, 2013

Arab Publics Turning to Social Networks to Express Political Views

34%

In a survey of 21 countries last spring, a median of 34% of social network users said they shared views on politics online. That figure was far higher in Arab nations.

Social networking has spread around the world with remarkable speed. In countries such as Britain, the United States, Russia, the Czech Republic and Spain, about half of all adults now use Facebook and similar websites. These sites are also popular in many lower-income nations, where, once people have access to the internet, they tend to use it for social networking.

The most popular use of social networking in 21 countries surveyed last spring was sharing views on music and movies; a median of 67% said they put the sites to this use. Discussion of politics ranked significantly lower down the list with a median of 34% saying they engaged in it online.

Use of social networking sites for discussion of politics ranked significantly higher in several Arab countries. The numbers using social networking sites overall in the Arab nations generally ranked in the bottom half of the nations surveyed. Still, in Egypt and Tunisia, two nations at the heart of the Arab Spring, more than six-in-ten social networkers said they shared their views about politics online. The same was true for social networkers in Lebanon and Jordan.

Social networkers in the Arab countries surveyed were also much more likely to share views on religion than their counterparts in other countries. More than six-in-ten social network users in Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan did so, (although Lebanon was an exception at only 8%). In contrast, a median of only 14% of social networkers in the overall global survey said they shared views about religion. Read more