Publications by Theme

In order to better explain the findings of its research, the Arab Transformations Project has organised its data around a number of themes.

EU-Mena Relations

Through its research, the Arab Transformations Project identifies a disconnect between
the EU intentions in the MENA region, and local perceptions of the failure of its influence
and impact. The EU aims to attain inclusive growth and shared prosperity, inclusive
political systems and democracy as well as greater security and stability. However,
research shows that it has failed to respond to popular demands and has instead retained
policies which produce greater economic polarisation, ongoing political marginalisation
and de facto support for authoritarian regimes. These policies leave untouched the
structural causes of insecurity and instability in MENA countries. The effects of these
failures have been a deeper undermining of the EU’s reputation as well as continued
insecurity, instability and increasing pressures on migration. 


Across all countries surveyed as part of the Arab Transformations Project, there is a
general perception that the security situation has significantly deteriorated. This is
particularly prevalent in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq. This phenomenon is linked
to the turmoil of the Uprisings, and in Libya and Iraq’s central provinces there is specific
concern about civil war and terrorism. Governments’ inability to address popular concerns
is likely to fuel popular frustration.

Quality of Life

Respondents to the Arab Transformation survey were not simply concerned with their
economic circumstances but their quality of life more generally. Most respondents felt
relatively safe in their immediate neighbourhood and that they had neighbours that they
could rely on in time of need. They were concerned about educational and employment
opportunities and the quality of public services. Respondents expressed relatively high
levels of dissatisfaction with the educational, health and social security systems in their
individual countries. Many had an expectation that the EU should provide development
assistance for education, social services and job creation.


The Arab Transformations survey found relatively slight differences between male and
female respondents on gender issues. Female respondents were less likely than males to
have participated in the Uprisings or to have considered the possibility of migration. Few
respondents believed gender equality was a priority, but women and younger people were
marginally more likely to support gender equality than men and older respondents. Most
people considered education to be equally important for girls as boys and that married
women should be able to work outside the home if they wished. However, respondents
were less certain that women made as effective political leaders as men and a large
majority wanted Sharia law to be enforced - a legal system that gives women fewer rights
than men.

Youth and Social Media

The Arab Transformations Project research has identified that the virtual tool of social
organisation – social media – was influential in the Arab Uprisings in helping to make
people better informed. It may play a greater role in organising political activity when
citizens are already engaged in conflict situations. The research demonstrates an almost
ubiquitous interest in politics across the region and identifies a schism between traditional
political activities - such as voting and membership of political parties - and activism by
age. Older people who are active politically tend to be offline whilst younger people who
are politically engaged tend to operate online.


Roughly sixty per cent of those surveyed as part of the Arab Transformations Project
believed state corruption is extremely widespread with the number leaping to ninety per
cent when responses from those who believe there is a medium level of corruption within
society are added. Very few respondents believed their governments were taking
measures to address corruption. Corruption is of course more than simply about money,
but includes nepotism, cronyism and clientelism. Across much of the region the need for
‘wasta’ (social influence) is prevalent in order to obtain services and in the expectation of
reciprocation from others. In all countries over eighty percent of respondents believe
wasta is always or almost always needed to secure a job. Corruption was given as a major
reason for joining or supporting the Arab Uprisings by many respondents. Crucially, where
corruption is felt to be endemic, respondents show extremely low levels of confidence
that governments are acting effectively to counter it.


Forty per cent of respondents surveyed in the Arab Transformations Project considered
living abroad, with a majority considering doing so for a temporary period. This varied by
country, with over half of Moroccans saying they have considered migration, compared
with just over a quarter of Iraqis. Around a fifth of Jordanians and Moroccans have
considered permanent migration compared with just six per cent of Egyptians. In most
cases, the key driver for migration is economic, although in Iraq security is the overriding
concern, and in Libya both security and education are more important. Political reasons
for migration account for only three per cent of responses to the survey, although the
economy and security are deeply entwined in political contexts.

Politics and Religion

Although religion is clearly important it is not so certain to what extent this translates into
the political sphere. The Arab Transformations survey found that with the exception of
Jordan, all countries have a majority of people who agree to an extent to a separation
between Islam and the government. They also display noticeably low trust in religious
elites and show little desire for clerics to influence government or voters. This is
particularly prevalent in Egypt. In all the countries surveyed a large majority of
respondents think that at least some laws should be based on (some interpretation of)
religious jurisprudence (Sharia). This preference was strongest in Family Law and Property
Law, areas in which state and religious institutions have historically cooperated. Tunisia
provides a partial exception, with relatively lower preferences across the board. By
contrast, nearly half of respondents in Jordan and just over a third in Morocco – two
countries in which the EU’s democracy assistance efforts have been strongest – preferred
an ‘Islamic’ form of government.


Trust is the basis of social cohesion. It is what makes it possible for individuals and groups
to interact in ways which work to the overall collective good. In surveyed countries
however, trust in social and political institutions is worryingly low. The Council of
Ministers was trusted by just over half of respondents in Egypt and Iraq, but only around a
quarter or less in the rest of the countries surveyed. Parliament and political parties were
trusted by very few. Local government was trusted by a few more, but still only between
twenty and thirty per cent of respondents, except in Iraq where this figure reached nearly
sixty per cent. There is a great deal of variation in the extent to which the courts and
legal system are trusted. Egyptians displayed the most faith at over fifty-eight per cent,
whilst Morocco was the lowest with just twenty-eight per cent. The police were trusted by
over eighty per cent of Jordanians but Iraqis, at only eleven per cent, barely trusted them
at all. Respondents did not have much faith in the media either: Iraq was the most
trusting but only thirty-five per cent expressed ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot’ of trust in
media sources.

Drivers of the Uprisings

Support for the Arab Uprisings, perhaps not surprisingly, varied by country, but overall the
tendency is for supporters to be male, relatively young (not elderly) and neither the
poorest nor the least well educated in society. The research conducted by the Arab
Transformations survey reveals differences between the six countries surveyed, but
overall corruption and economic issues were perceived as significantly more important
drivers than purely political ones. By 2014 people seem less optimistic about the outcomes
of the Arab Uprisings than they did in 2011, and less likely to say that they supported
them. The general view is that the economic situation of the countries and individual
households has deteriorated, with the exception of Morocco where overall respondents
note a small improvement. Egyptians are noticeably more positive about the prospects for
economic growth.


Publications by Theme

EU-MENA Relations



Quality of Life


Top of Page

In This Section