Cultural Attitudes

Large majorities of respondents in the six surveyed countries support both preservation of culture and integration with the modern world, but many question the possibility of doing both.

Nationals are more likely than expatriates to describe themselves as "culturally conservative" than "culturally progressive" relative to most people in their country. More Emiratis identify as culturally conservative in 2016 than in 2015. However, in 2016, fewer Egyptians and Qataris describe themselves as conservative compared to 2015.

Three-quarters of nationals also say more should be done to conserve cultural traditions. While desire to preserve culture has dropped in some countries, more Egyptians want more cultural preservation compared to 2014.

Two-thirds of nationals also say their culture should do more to integrate with modern society (65%), with Qataris more likely than other nationals to agree. Nationals under 45 years old are more likely than those 45 years and older to support integration of culture with modernity. Support increases with education (54% primary or lower education vs. 69% university or higher education). Integration of culture with modern society is supported more among those who identify as culturally progressive than among the culturally conservative (74% vs. 63%).

A sizeable minority of nationals say it is not possible to simultaneously preserve cultural traditions and integrate with modern society (43%). Nearly six in 10 Egyptians hold this belief, more nationals than from any other country (58% Egyptians vs. 52% Saudis, 46% Emiratis, 37% Lebanese, 31% Qataris, 31% Tunisians). The belief that preserving culture and modernity are incompatible holds steady across age and education levels.

Most nationals say their country is headed in the right direction, except for just 9% of Lebanese nationals. Officials in Egypt did not permit the fielding of this question.

Majorities of nationals consume entertainment content from Arab countries. Notably, the consumption of film, TV, and music from the U.S. has decreased since 2014. While use of entertainment media from the Arab world varies little with age, consumption of U.S. content decreases with age.

Consumption of entertainment media in Arabic is widespread, but use of English is much lower and—in some countries—declining. Only about four in 10 nationals (who use the media) watch films or access the internet in English (42% films, 37% internet), and even fewer access music, print materials, and TV programs in English (30% music, 13% print materials, 11% TV programs). Nationals in most countries report a reduced tendency to watch films in English compared with two years ago, with the notable exception of Egypt, where viewing English films rose substantially. Use of the internet in English declined overall since 2013, but a few countries—Lebanon, Qatar, and Tunisia—report small increases in English internet use since 2015.

While most nationals, about six in 10, believe consuming entertainment from different parts of the world is beneficial, support for this statement fell in all countries since 2014, except in Tunisia and Egypt. Those who self-identify as cultural progressives are more likely than cultural conservatives to see a benefit in watching content from other parts of the world (66% vs. 55%). This belief is more common among the more highly-educated nationals, with proportions ranging from 45% among those with a primary or lower education to 62% among university or more highly-educated respondents.

Half of nationals in the six countries say the quality of entertainment produced in the Arab world has improved since 2014. Emiratis are most likely to say quality is up (67%), while Tunisians are least laudatory of Arab entertainment (38%).

Half of nationals also believe entertainment media challenge rather than reinforce cultural stereotypes. In Egypt and Tunisia, the proportion of respondents saying that entertainment media challenge cultural stereotypes rose since 2014. At the same time, however, fewer Saudis agreed with this statement. Cultural progressives are more likely than conservatives to say entertainment media counter stereotypes (59% vs. 48%).

A majority of nationals in all six countries want more entertainment media based on their culture and history, ranging from 52% of Tunisians to 80% of Qataris. More Egyptians and Emiratis express a desire for such culturally relevant entertainment compared to 2014, while fewer Lebanese and Saudis desire more cultural and historical content than they did two years ago. Cultural progressives and conservatives are about equally likely to believe more entertainment media should be based on their culture and history (63% progressives vs. 60% conservatives).

The majority of nationals prefer films portraying their own culture, but agreement has declined over the past two years in all countries, except Tunisia.