A fascinating study published by Burson-Marsteller, a world reknowned public relations firm, examined cross-cultural views and attitudes by comparing Arab and Western youth ages 18-24. The results were interesting and enlightening and highlight both the differences and similarities of young men and women in a variety of aspects. The study took place in September of 2008, surveying and interviewing some 1500 youth in these six Middle Eastern countries: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, and Jordan. Only 300 youth from the West (100 each from USA, United Kingdom, and Germany) were surveyed for comparison in this study. Topics of research included Culture and Religion, National Identity, Lifestyle, Technology, and Globalisation. For more specifics about the study's criteria, click here.
The following list contains some of the key findings of the study taken directly from their website:
1. Western youth are generally pessimistic about the future, while Middle East youth are optimistic: Just 34% of Western youth feel that things in their country are heading in the right direction. In the Middle East, youth are considerably more optimistic, with 52% arguing that their country is heading in the right direction.
2. Religion is enormously important to Middle East youth, especially when compared to their Western peers: Some 68% of Middle East youth say that religion defines them as a person, compared to just 16% in the West. Asked to name an influence on them and their outlook on life, 62% of Middle East youth listed religion, compared to just 38% of their Western peers.
3. National identity and traditional values are extremely important to Arab youth, but not for their peers in the West: 9% of Arab youth say that the loss of traditional values and culture is the greatest challenge facing the world today, a sentiment a statistically insignificant percentage of their Western peers agree with. Likewise, Arab youth generally very strongly agree that their national identity is very important to them, while Western youth view the same as only moderately important.
4. Arab youth generally admire political, religious and business leaders, while Western youth do not: Asked whom they look up to, 30% of Arab youth cited government leaders, compared to just 9% of their Western peers. Likewise, while just 5% of Western youth said they looked up to religious leaders, 31% Middle East youth claimed admiration for the same group. In the economic space, 29% of Arab youth look up to business leaders, a sentiment shared by only 5% of youth in the West.
5. Family and friends are equally important to Middle East and Western youth: Precisely 64% of Arab and Western youth say that their family defines who they are as a person, with both groups citing family as one of the most important factors in this area. The two also agree that friends are among the key determinants in defining their identity, with concurrence from 57% of Western youth and 61% of their Arab peers.
6. Arab youth want to make a difference, while Western youth mostly just want to get ahead: 11% of Arab youth say success means being enlightened spiritually and 34% say it is making the world a better place – compared to 5% and 12%, respectively, in the West.
7. Arab and Western male youth have very different opinions about gender equality in the workplace: 79% of Western male youth believe that men and women should have equal opportunities in the workplace, while just 58% of their male counterparts in the Middle East agree. In striking contrast to the attitudes of their male peers, 73% of female Arab youth feel that they should have equal opportunities for professional advancement.
8. Consumer and lifestyle habits of Arab and Western youth are strikingly similar: Young people in the West and Middle East indulge in similar activities, use similar technologies and have similar lifestyle habits. Both spend the majority of their disposable incomes on going out and shopping for clothes/shoes. Both groups constantly worry about their appearance.
9. Global brands have transnational appeal among Middle East and Western youth: Despite some differences, young people view many brands with similar levels of warmth. The top brands for young people in the Middle East include Nokia, Sony, Toyota and Toshiba – all of which have similarly high favourability levels for the West.
10. Europe is the top desired travel destination for both Arab and Western youth: 74% of Western youth and 49% of Arab youth would be interested in travelling to Europe in the future. Both groups would also be interested in travelling to North Africa – including 35% of Western youth and 21% of their Arab peers.
Here's a presentation that further highlights more specific details about some of the study's key findings.
And here's a Press Release about the study and its findings.