No longer the single most common source for daily news among Arab nationals, TV is now at parity with several digital news forms. In 2019, between six and seven in 10 nationals get news at least once a day not only from TV, but also from friends and family, the internet generally, and messaging apps and social media specifically. Small and dwindling percentages of nationals, however, report regularly getting news from print media.
Digital preferences for news consumption differ somewhat by nationality. While at least half of respondents in all nationality groups (Arab nationals, Asian expatriates, Western expats, Arab expats) get news online, Asian and Western expatriates are more likely to do so than either Nationals or Arab expats (internet: 75% Asian expats, 77% Western expats vs. 67% Nationals, 62% Arab expats; social media: 72% Asian expats, 74% Western expats vs. 60% Nationals, 56% Arab expats; instant/direct messaging: 74% Asian expats, 70% Western expats vs. 58% Nationals, 54% Arab expats).
The percentage of Arab nationals who get news on a smartphone at least once a day has risen in every country since 2017, while getting news from TV every day increased only in four countries and fell in Tunisia, UAE, and Jordan. Saudi Arabia and Qatar experienced dramatic increases in daily TV news use, and Lebanon, Egypt, and Qatar saw the largest increases on smartphones.
Additionally, while more nationals in the region are turning to their smartphones for news on a daily basis (up 17 percentage points from 2017), checking for news on a computer has remained low at one in five.
Almost nine in 10 nationals under 45 years old get news from a smartphone every day compared to about six in 10 nationals 45 or older (87% 18-24 year-olds; 88% 25-34 year-olds, 81% 35-44 year-olds, 59% 45+ year-olds). Just a third of nationals with a primary education or less get news from a smartphone every day compared to most with a secondary education or higher (32% primary or less, 67% intermediate, 83% secondary, 90% university or higher).
Majorities of nationals across all age and education groups get news every day from TV (age: 68% 18-24 year-olds, 74% 25-34year-olds, 81% 35-44 year-olds, 86% 45+ year-olds; education: 80% primary or less, 80% intermediate, 76% secondary, 77% university or higher).
More specifically, the rates of watching news videos on smartphones rose in all countries except the UAE and Tunisia, especially in Saudi Arabia where three-quarters of nationals watch news videos on a smartphone every day.
News consumption in Arab countries is robust, but willingness to pay for it is less so. Overall, 10% to 15% of nationals across countries are willing to pay for news in any traditional or digital format, findings similar to those in 2017 but significantly lower for TV and digital than in the 2015 study.
Willingness to pay for news differs markedly across nationality groups, with Asian and Western expatriates more willing to pay than Arab nationals or Arab expats (digital: 28% Asian expats, 34% Western expats vs. 13% Nationals, 21% Arab expats; TV: 21% Asian expats, 33% Western expats vs. 12% Nationals, 24% Arab expats; newspapers: 30% Asian expats, 36% Western expats vs. 10% Nationals, 17% Arab expats; podcasts: 19% Asian expats, 32% Western expats vs. 8% Nationals, 13% Arab expats).
More nationals get and share news on Facebook and WhatsApp than on any other social media platforms. Getting news is more common than sharing news on every major social media platform, and the greatest disparity is reported for YouTube.
When focusing only on users of each platform, Twitter and Facebook dominate when it comes to news with two-thirds of their users getting and half sharing news on each platform.
While most nationals get news online, fewer than half in each country say they posted or shared online about the news in the prior month. Since 2017, these rates dropped by half in Saudi Arabia and Qatar and dropped modestly in Jordan and Tunisia.
Just because nationals get news from social media doesn’t mean they necessarily trust it. In the UAE, KSA, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt, about seven in 10 get news from social media every day. Emiratis and Saudis, however, are the only nationalities who both use and trust social media for news at similar rates, figures that have risen significantly since 2017.
While daily consumption of all types of news has declined since 2017, more nationals, four in 10, get news about politics and arts and entertainment every day than other types of news. One-quarter of nationals get sports and religious news every day; news about science and technology, business and economy, and fashion are less popular.
More likely than women, men get daily news about politics and current affairs, sports, and business (political and current affairs: 43% men, 32% women; sports: 38% men, 12% women; business/economy: 18% men, 12% women), while women more likely lend daily attention to arts and entertainment, fashion, and religious/spiritual news (arts/entertainment: 37% men, 41% women; fashion: 12% men, 23% women; religious/spiritual: 25% men, 29% women). For many news topics, however, gender differences are not drastic.
Older nationals are more likely than those younger to get news every day about politics and current affairs and religious/spiritual topics, while arts and entertainment coverage is more popular among young nationals (political/current affairs: 26% 18-24 year-olds, 36% 25-34 year-olds, 43% 35-44 year-olds, 47% 45+ year-olds; religious/spiritual: 19% 18-24 year-olds, 26% 25-34 year-olds, 28% 35-44 year-olds, 36% 45+ year-olds; arts and entertainment: 47% 18-24 year-olds, 43% 25-34 year-olds, 36% 35-44 year-olds, 28% 45+ year-olds).
More nationals get local and national news every day than regional and international news. However, the proportion of nationals who get news about each locale every day dropped five to 10 percentage points across countries since 2017.
Far more nationals in older age groups get news every day than do younger nationals, regardless of the geographic focus of the news (local community: 40% 18-24 year-olds, 48% 25-34 year-olds, 55% 35-44 year-olds, 60% 45+ year-olds; this country: 44%, 55%, 62%, 68%; other Arab countries: 25%, 33%, 41%, 39%, outside the Arab region: 22%, 31%, 36%, 39%).
Interestingly, nationals with less education are more likely than those with a college education or higher to follow news about their local community and country. Nationals of all education levels follow global news at similar rates (my local community: 62% primary or less, 61% intermediate, 48% secondary, 48% university or higher; this country: 66%, 64%, 56%, 55%; other Arab countries: 45%, 42%,35%, 34%; outside the Arab region: 35%, 34%, 31%, 32%).
Respondents answered several questions about their favorite news organization. Emiratis and Qataris more likely prefer a news outlet that is government owned rather than privately owned. More common in all other countries, however, are favorite news organizations being privately owned, including three-quarters of Lebanese. A third of Tunisians do not have a favorite news organization. The question was not permitted by officials in Egypt.
Half to two-thirds of nationals in every country except Tunisia say their favorite news organization is based in their own country. Tunisians are more evenly split as to whether their favorite news organization is based inside or outside of their country.