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Arab Spring: 10 Years Later

A vast majority of citizens of Arab countries support democracy and pluralism, according to a new opinion poll conducted in 13 Arab countries by the Qatar-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies. The 2019-20 Arab Opinion Index, which can be read here in full, used 900 researchers to survey nearly 30,000 individuals, asked Arab citizens for their opinions about local and global issues, including Israeli-Arab relations and the Nov. 3 US presidential election.

A large majority – 76% -- of respondents expressed support for a democratic system of government, and 74% said that they thought a "pluralist" democratic system would be an appropriate form of government for their countries.

Support for existing governments was weaker, with only 47% of respondents saying that they thought their governments were carrying out their duties. An overwhelming 91% said that they believed that financial and administrative corruption existed in their countries, to varying degrees.

Nearly a decade after the Arab Spring of 2011, how do residents of Arab countries feel about those events? According to the poll, 58% saw the revolutions and protests of 2011 as "very" or "somewhat" positive, in spite of developments since then. Nearly half (48%) said that the Arab Spring movement still faced obstacles but believed its goals would ultimately be achieved.

Despite the recent decisions by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to normalize ties with Israel, much of the Arab public apparently remains unmoved when it comes to the Jewish state. A whopping 88% of respondents refused to recognize Israel, mostly for political reasons rather than religious ones.

A majority of respondents from Saudi Arabia (65%) rejected recognition of Israel, despite some changes in Saudi policy, such as allowing Israeli flights to make use of its airspace. The ACRPS report noted a "high rate of non-response" (29%) from Saudis, given "current conditions of repression."

However, the strongest opposition to recognition of Israel came from Algeria, not Saudi Arabia, with 99% of Algerian respondents saying they opposed Algeria recognizing Israel. However, 13% of respondents from Sudan said they would support Khartoum recognizing Israel, and 10% of Kuwait respondents said the same.

Among Saudi respondents, 89% said that the Palestinian issue was an issue for all Arabs, compared to 79% of all respondents who said that the Palestinian issue was a pan-Arab matter. More than half of respondents characterized US policy on the Palestinians, Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen as "bad."

The poll also found that 92% of respondents said they held a "negative" or "very negative" view of the Islamic State group, compared to the 2017-18 index, in which 85% of respondents said they held a "very negative" view of ISIS and 7% said they held a "somewhat negative" view of the group.

When asked what factors had contributed to the establishment of ISIS, 27% of respondents cited internal Middle East conflicts, while 55% said that ISIS arose in response to policies of foreign powers.

The index compiled responses from nearly 30,000 Arab citizens of Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Algeria, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar. took part. The survey included representative samples from all countries and had a  margin of error of +/- 2-3%.