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In the Middle East, Two-Thirds Get News on Social Media; Less Than Half Trust it

Northwestern University in Qatar releases its fifth annual survey of media use and public opinion in the Middle East

EVANSTON - Trust in the news media is high across the Middle East, but significantly less so on social media, according to the fifth annual survey of media use and public opinion by Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q).

The study, released this week in Doha, Qatar, explores patterns of news use, perceptions of news bias, and attitudes toward free speech in seven countries: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia and Egypt. Some questions were replicated in the United States for context and comparison.

Everette E. Dennis, dean and CEO of NU-Q, said, “at a challenging time in the region and around the world, we offer these findings as impartial data for use in a much-needed discussion and understanding of the current media environment.”

Key findings from the study include: 

  • Arab nationals are twice as likely as Americans to trust mass media (66 percent, 32 percent).
  • Two-thirds of Arab nationals trust mass media, but fewer than half trust news they get via social media (66 percent, 47 percent).
  • Two-thirds of Facebook users get news on that platform (65 percent).
  • Facebook use continues to decline in Gulf countries, with a rise in non-Gulf countries.
  • Two-thirds of Arab nationals trust media from their own country, but only half trust news from other Arab countries (66 percent, 52 percent).
  • Americans are more likely than Arab nationals to believe that news is biased against the Arab world. (33 percent Arab nationals think international news is biased against the Arab world, 43 percent of Americans think the same.)
  • Three times as many Arab nationals think people should be able to publicly criticize the government’s policies than should be allowed to make offensive statements about one’s religion and beliefs or about minorities (45 percent government’s policies, 15 percent religion or beliefs, 17 percent minority groups).

The survey, the largest annual study of its kind in the Middle East, was conducted in collaboration with the Harris Poll in February and March of 2017. Findings reflect nationally representative samples of over 1000 respondents in each country (7,196 in total). Interviews were conducted face-to-face in most countries, and by phone in Qatar. Because data from Egypt were collected later in the year (June and July), it is not included in region-wide figures reported here. 

View the full report and explore the findings directly using an interactive tool.

About Northwestern University in Qatar

Northwestern University in Qatar draws from its parent organization, Northwestern University(Evanston, Illinois), a distinguished history, famous programs and an exceptional faculty. Founded in partnership with Qatar Foundation, NU-Q provides a framework through which students explore the world and, ultimately, shape its future through its distinguished schools of communication, journalism and strategic communication, and liberal arts.

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