The Arab verdict

As the results of the UAE’s first ever comprehensive opinion poll are exclusively released by Arabian Business, Rhys Jones takes a look at the facts and figures that matter.

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By  Rhys Jones Published  July 24, 2005

The Arab verdict|~|2 YOUGOV-UPLOAD-PIC-200.jpg|~|FULLY COVERED: Only 30% of people think the legal framework regarding home ownership for expats will hold good.|~|EARLIER THIS year Arabian Business commissioned internationally renowned opinion pollsters YouGov to carry out an extensive survey into some of the region’s key issues. This week, in a unique exercise, we publish the results. Opinion is an easy word. Everybody has one. And everyone knows what theirs is. But what of mass opinion? What, as a whole, does the Arab world really think? Surprisingly, opinion pollsters are a remarkably accurate way of judging this. British-based YouGov has become of the most reliable in the world, predicting in advance the results of the last two British general elections to within exactly one percentage point. Its method of diverse sampling has proved to be highly accurate in the past, and was judged by Arabian Business to be a reliable indicator of true Arab opinion. So just what is that opinion? On property, it is no secret that many people fear the bubble may be about to burst — privately some consider a rise in American interest rates will be the trigger for this. In fact, our results show that just 8% of people in the UAE believe there will not be a crash in the next decade — and not a single Westerner is in that 8% category. Our survey also shows serious concerns over the legal framework surrounding the market, and of the standard of building work in Dubai. Which leads us neatly to the issue of trust. Just who do we rely on most for the truth? Surprisingly, Arab news channel Al Jazeera scores the least — just 46% of those surveyed rely upon it, compared with 57% tuning into CNN and a huge 78% voting for the BBC. Even among Arabs, 59% voted for the BBC as opposed to 52% for CNN. But when it comes to the internet, there is better news: Among e-government users, 90% say the range of services is “very” or “fairly” good, 88% think the services are relevant to people like them, and 82% say the services are easy to use. The UAE government has much to celebrate in this field: 89% would recommend the UAE’s e-government services to others. Finally, YouGov also tackled the sensitive issue of greater women’s rights: the changes in Kuwait recently, with women granted the right to be elected, has triggered the winds of change across the region. It is of little surprise that an overwhelming 87% of the sample think women should have equal political rights with men in the GCC; one in ten think either that they should not for the next five years (6%) or “never” (4%). THE RESULTS IN FULL Property prospects Most respondents expect property prices in Dubai to crash within the next five years. Some 25% expect a crash within the next two years, while a further 34% expect a crash before five years have elapsed. Only 8% (and none of the Western expats surveyed) are confident there will be no crash within the next 10 years. Western expats (44%), people aged over 46 (49%) and the wealthiest among the sample (42%), those earning over AED30,000 (US$8168) per month, are the groups most likely to believe the property market in Dubai will crash over the next five years. However, in the shorter term, 67% expect the price of homes in their part of the Middle East to rise over the next year or so, while just 19% expect prices to fall. Arabs (72%) have the most confidence in the value of property increasing in the next year. Only 30% have confidence that the legal framework surrounding home ownership for expats in Dubai will hold good; 48% think it will either be overruled by the Federal National Council (29%) or if Dubai’s ruler changes (19%) — 22% were unsure. Half the sample is critical of the standard of building work in Dubai homes. Some 32% fear that “many will show significant amounts of disrepair within five years”, and a further 21% within five-10 years. Western expats are most critical, with 83% expecting significant amounts of disrepair within 10 years. Indian/Pakistani respondents are the most confident, with the greater proportion thinking that homes are being built to a reasonable standard (47%), much the same as the number fearing disrepair within 10 years (46%). Trust YouGov asked respondents how much they trusted different kinds of people and institutions to tell the truth. These are the proportions of people who trust the various groups “a great deal” or “a fair amount”. It is worth noting that the BBC is the most trusted news source for all three groups of people; and the numbers who trust Al Jazeera are similar for all three groups. However, CNN is trusted much more by Indian/Pakistani respondents and Western expats than by Arabs. The Internet More people think information technology has helped international terrorism most (36%) than think it has been of greater help to the agencies fighting terrorism (28%). But a further 36% don’t know. By two-to-one, Western expats are more likely to think information technology has helped terrorists more; among Arabs and Indian/Pakistani residents, views are more evenly divided. Among the 40% of the respondents to this survey who can read Arabic, just 8% say they “frequently” look at websites in Arabic, while 35% look occasionally at them. A further 57% never look at Arabic websites. Only 9% of those who read Arabic feel there is enough information available to them on the Internet. However, 21% feel there is not enough information in Arabic, while 25% think there would not be enough if they only read Arabic, but feel there is because they also look at English sites. Among the whole sample, e-mails and the Internet are most widely used to keep contact with friends/family in other parts of the world (91%), followed by: to keep up with news from other parts of the world (76%), keep contact with company colleagues (68%), keep contact with friends/family in their part of the Middle East (65%) and keep in contact with customers/clients/suppliers (60%). The sample was asked to tick all the answers that applied to them. There are some differences in the amount the different ethnic groupings use e-mail and the Internet. Noticeably Arabs (72%) and those earning over AED30,000 (US$8168) per month (74%) are most likely to use e-mail and the Internet for finding out what other companies are doing. For Arabs this comes second to keeping in contact with friends and family, but is far higher than any other use. Western expats are much more likely to use the Internet and e-mail to follow news from other parts of the world (86%), for travel arrangements (70%) and to organise finances (58%) than any other group. There is a noticeable trend among the various income groups and their online activities. In three categories (shopping, making travel arrangements and organising finances) there is a steady increase of use, the richer the respondent. Some 18% of low-income earners (less than AED4000 or US$1090) shop online, this figure rises steadily to 55% for people with a monthly household income of more than AED30,000. Only 14% of low-income earners make travel arrangements online, this rises steadily to 63% in the highest income bracket. The same is true of organising finances online, performed by 14% of low-income earners rising to 45% among the highest earners. The group most likely to download music are 18-29 year olds (61%). It drops dramatically to 28% among 30–45 year olds and 26% for those over 46. In business, 74% say information technology is extremely important to their company, while 72% expect their company to spend more on IT this year than last. Few companies sell a significant proportion of their output over the Internet (just one in five sell more than 10% over the Internet). A similar proportion, 24%, purchase more than 10% of their supplies over the Internet. The majority say that their company/organisation has a problem with spam, (79%) or viruses (80%) — 22% feel spam is a very big problem and 26% think viruses are a very big problem. However, 87% are aware that the UAE has developed a range of e-government services. Just over half of this 87% has used at least one of these services. Among e-government users, 90% say the range of services is “very” or “fairly” good, 88% think the services are relevant to people like them, and 82% say the services are easy to use. Some 89% would recommend the UAE’s e-government services to others. Women’s Rights An overwhelming 87% of the sample think women should have equal political rights with men in the GCC; one in 10 think either that they should not for the next five years (6%) or “never” (4%). Three times as many men (12%) as women (4%) think women should not have equal rights for at least five years or ever. Every Western expat in the sample (100%) thinks women should have equal rights, this figure drops to 86% among Indian/Pakistanis and again to 78% among Arabs. It should be noted that the poorest among the sample are the most resistant to women having equal political rights. Some 22% of those with a household income of less than AED4000 (US$1090) think women should not have equal rights with men. Support for women’s rights drops to 68% among this group from the 87% average across the sample. ||**||

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