Dubai: A new study of 3,500 Arab youth across the Middle East has revealed that an “overwhelming majority of young Arabs reject Daesh and believe the group will fail to establish an Islamic state.”

Fifty per cent of youth involved in the 180-question survey said they believe Daesh is the biggest obstacle facing the Middle East.

A further 77 per cent of respondents noted that they are concerned about the regional group, up from 37 per cent last year who replied they concerned. 

The findings were released in a press conference at Dubai’s Ritz-Carlton DIFC on Tuesday morning as part of the eighth annual Asda’s Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey.

Youth representing a 50-50 split in female and male citizen respondents in each of the 16 countries across the Middle East were interviewed face-to-face in January and February of this year between the ages of 18-24 for the study done by Penn Schoen Berland.

Sunil John, Chief Executive Officer Asda’a Burson-Marsteller, who has helped lead the study for the last eight years told Gulf News, that the latest effort “is the largest independent study of its kind of the region’s largest demographic.”




In a White Paper authored by John to accompany the study, the growing backlash against Daesh is apparent judging from the survey responses.

“Just one in six (15 per cent) believe the terrorist group will ultimately succeed and establish an Islamic state in the Arab World. Instead, 76 per cent believe the group will fail to achieve its ultimate goal of establishing an Islamic state,” the paper stated.

“Despite increasing concern, tacit support for the militant group is declining with nearly four in five (78 per cent) rejecting the group outright even if it were to change its tactics – just 13 per cent of young Arabs agree they could see themselves supporting Daesh if it did not use so much violence (compared to 19 per cent last year).”



Youth spoke out in the Arab Youth Survey, blaming high unemployment for Daesh’s ability to attract new recruits.

“A quarter (24 per cent) of Arab youth believe that lack of jobs and opportunities for young people is one of the primary reasons why some are attracted to Daesh,” stated the paper, adding that “one in four do not understand why anyone would want to join the militant group.

Other reasons listed for Daesh’s recruitment of young people included the belief that their interpretation of Islam is superior to others (18 per cent), religious tensions between Sunnis and Shias (17 per cent) and the “rise of secular Western values in the region (15 per cent).”

A lack of employment is a prominent concern in all 16 countries in which only 44 per cent of youth surveyed agreed with the statement that there are good job opportunities in the areas that they live in.

“The International Labour Organisation believes up to 75 million people are jobless in the Arab world. This depressing statistic, and the corresponding pessimism felt by so many responders to our survey, is a demining indictment of the governments that have failed to address this key issue,” the survey paper stated.

Hassan Hassan, a Middle East scholar and co-author of the book, Isis: Inside the Army of Terror, reminded survey readers that smashing Daesh will not bring an end to lack of opportunities for millions of Arab youth.

“Many people in the region may reject Daesh due to its extreme tactics, but the issue remains that the group exploits existing problems,” Hassan said.

“It did not simply invent the problems the responders identified as factors. Daesh, put another way, is a symptom of a growing disease that needs to be tackled and not just the disease itself,” he said.

Commenting on the survey respondents shunning of Daesh, Hassan said that “the solution to Daesh must not be limited to military and security responses. The organisation thrives on political, economic, social and religious failures. Daesh may waken and disappear, but the underlying sickness will remain and similar groups will emerge if that is not addressed. The survey’s findings should be a reminder to everyone that Daesh simply did not materialise out of thin air.”