One of the reasons I love survey data is because it provides a window into the lives and opinions of real people. On Thursday I had the pleasure of listening to a briefing from Mohamed Younis – a Senior Analyst from Gallup and a specialist in the MENA region. For obvious reasons, survey data coming out of the post-revolution MENA countries is valuable both as a gauge for what’s happening now but also as a predictor for what might happen in the future.
Mohamed’s informal and informative briefing covered trends form the region as well as country specific data. A lot of time was spent discussing Egypt and Libya, particularly the UK and US involvement in the Libyan revolution. When he spoke it was clear that Mohamed is passionate about the region and is full of fascinating stats and interesting notes from the polling data he works with.
The briefing covered more ground than a short post can do justice, so I’ll just pull out some of the stats that stuck out for me:
- Approval of the UK is very high in Libya – over 50% – which is among the highest of all Western countries (The US has 54%).
- 75% of Libyans favoured the NATO intervention that led to the fall of Gadhafi (which is much higher than the number of Egyptians who approved (13%), Algerians (14%), and Tunisians (33%).
- In terms of how the West can support Libya now, 61% of Libyans say they want economic aid, while 77% said they want governance experts.
Mohamed suggested that this wave of positivity won’t last for ever and in fact we have arrived at an important moment for UK Foreign Policy in Libya. The UK is perceived as a helper and a key ally in delivering the Libyan people from the Gadhafi regime and into a new era of democracy.
The UK has an opportunity to ride the wave of popularity and to be involved in the transition. Whether this comes in the form of economic aid – as many Libyans favour – or in other forms of assistance, the window of opportunity seems to be open now.
But this, of course, won’t necessarily be easy. A country’s transition to democracy is not straightforward and often messy. What is more, if we’ve learned anything from the recent events in Egypt, it’s that democracy doesn’t always look how we think it will look; it has different flavours and presents different challenges wherever it takes root.
The briefing was fascinating and I came away feeling that I somehow knew the people of the MENA region. Thanks to Mohamed for taking the time, thanks to Andy Rzepa for setting it up, and thanks to Gallup for consistently producing first-rate survey data that sheds light on some of the most challenging issues we face today.
The links to the data used in this post on the Gallup site are as follows: