Posted on October 22, 2016 in Washington Watch
by James J. Zogby
Citizens in several of the Arab Gulf states appear to have a higher appreciation for the quality of life available to them in their countries than do citizens in most European countries. This was one of the key findings of a Zogby Research Services (ZRS) study conducted earlier this year.
As part of a larger omnibus study that surveyed a range of attitudes of 24,000 citizens in 22 countries, ZRS measured rates of satisfaction, optimism, confidence, and perceptions of personal security. The countries covered in the study included all of the GCC and Egypt. In Europe, ZRS surveyed Germany, UK, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. In Asia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong were covered in the study. The United States and Australia were also included.
Among the questions asked of the respondents in the survey were: whether they believed their countries were moving in the right or wrong direction; whether they personally felt better off or worse off than they were five years ago (and the degree to which they felt that they were better off than their parent's generation); whether they felt they would be better or worse off five years from now (and whether they thought that their children would be better off in the future); and their concern with their financial, personal, and physical security.
In the end, in order to create an overall "Quality of Life" rating ZRS compiled, for each country, the average of the percentages of their citizens who expressed confidence in the direction of their country, their satisfaction with their current situation, their optimism about the future, and their assessment of their personal security. This average was termed the Quality of Life Quotient (QLQ).
Of the 22 countries covered in the study Malaysia and Singapore finished in first and second place, with overall QLQ's of 59 and 56. They were followed closely by the United Arab Emirates which recorded a 53 QLQ. Oman (50) and Qatar (46) came in fourth and fifth place, followed by Denmark (42) and Sweden (42). Saudi Arabia was also in the top ten with a 39 QLQ. Bahrain came in twelfth place with a QLQ of 37.
The United States ranked fourteenth at (35), with the United Kingdom (30) and Germany (29) finishing seventeenth and nineteenth, respectively. The other Arab countries covered in the study, Kuwait (27) and Egypt (23), ranked twentieth and twenty-first. The lowest ranking country was Indonesia—receiving a QLQ of 2 and the poorest scores in all of the categories covered in the study.
Among the Arab Gulf states, the UAE was exceptional, ranking in the top tier in each of the areas covered: confidence (60), satisfaction (62), optimism (58), and personal security (38). Oman scored quite high in satisfaction (57) and ranked highest in personal security (51). And Qatar received high scores in confidence (57) and personal security (41).
The lower ranking received by the US was due to the poor grades Americans gave their country in the areas of confidence (29) and personal security (19). Confidence and optimism levels in the UK and Germany were also quite low.
While this was not a political survey, per se, there are political ramifications implicit in the results. For example, what the study establishes is that despite the continuing conflicts plaguing the region (in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen) and the concerns that may exist with Iran's regional policies, the governments of the GCC have done well by their citizens and have earned a measure of stability and security. At the same time, coming through quite clearly is the unease shaping the political landscape in the US, UK, and Germany. As we have seen, with Brexit, the emergence of Trumpism and other far-right nationalist currents, this unease has already had an impact on the politics of these countries.
In contrast, it is worth noting that despite reports of unrest and social dislocation resulting from the influx of refugees in the Scandinavian countries, they have fared quite well. In most areas covered in the study, Denmark, Sweden and Norway scored high, receiving QLQ's that placed them in the top ten in overall rankings. Thus, despite the pressures being experienced in some Scandinavian countries, their governments appear to be taking care to provide for their citizens and this is reflected in the relatively high confidence, optimism, and personal security ratings they receive.
Worrisome, however, are the very low ratings given by Egyptians in the areas of confidence (24), satisfaction (20), and optimism in the future (24). This should be noted by those concerned with the future of Egypt.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the position of the Arab American Institute. The Arab American Institute is a non-profit, nonpartisan national leadership organization that does not endorse candidates.