More Saudi and Emirati internet users worry about online surveillance, either by companies (62%, 61%) or government (58%, 47%), compared to other Middle East Countries, according to a media use survey by Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q).
The results of NU-Q’s sixth annual Middle East Media Use survey have been released on its interactive website, mideastmedia.org. The full report, in English and Arabic, will be released in March.
The survey points out that only 16% of Qatari internet users are concerned about either online corporate or government surveillance. In contrast, 67% of Americans worry about corporate surveillance and 57% government surveillance.
The comprehensive 2018 survey looks at changes in media consumption patterns, attitudes and content preferences. The participating countries – Saudi Arabia (KSA), the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Tunisia – represent a cultural and geopolitical cross-section of the Mena region.
“NU-Q’s annual media usage surveys are widely cited by scholars, industry experts, and other thought leaders who seek to explain regional developments to a broader audience,” said Everette E Dennis, dean and CEO of NU-Q. “Mideastmedia.org is an easily searchable, information-rich website for policy-makers, media professionals, and institutional leaders wanting to better understand a rapidly changing Middle East media environment. We believe the latest survey findings are illuminating and, in some cases, surprising.”
The sixth annual media use survey was conducted face-to-face (phone in Qatar) among 7,635 respondents across seven countries. The survey was conducted by The Harris Poll from July 10 to December 30, 2018.
Other key findings from the 2018 study include that trust in mass media in most Arab countries is falling, and in 2018 the share of nationals in Jordan and Tunisia (42% and 39% respectively) who trust their national media dropped below that reported by US residents (45%).
More than half of Arab nationals in all countries surveyed say they come across political news stories online they think are mostly made up, either sometimes or often. Roughly three-quarters of Qataris, Lebanese, and Saudis say they come across patently false news items sometimes or often—similar to the rate in the United States (74%).
Arab nationals are more likely now than in 2014 to say films and TV content from the US and Europe are good for morality. Meanwhile, considerably fewer nationals say films and TV from Arab countries are good for morality.
The percentage of VPN (Virtual Private Network) users spiked in Qatar from 6 % in 2016 to 39% in 2018) and Saudi Arabia (7% in 2016 to 54% in 2018), among internet users. In Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Tunisia, that figure remains at 10% or less.
Among social media and messaging apps, 29% of nationals said WhatsApp provides the most privacy, although one in four (23%) said no platform affords privacy.
Smartphone ownership rates are among the highest in the world, with ownership percentages higher in almost all surveyed countries than in the United States, where it is 77%. Nearly 100% of nationals in Qatar and UAE own a smartphone, as do more than nine in ten in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.
More Arab nationals are watching TV online than in 2016, with Saudi Arabia home to the highest percentage of online viewers (51%). Majorities in the Gulf countries use streaming services, with Shahid the leader followed by Netflix.
Binge-watching is also on the rise, with the most dramatic increase in Qatar where 54% report doing so in 2018, compared to only 24% in 2016.
Football is by far the most popular sport to watch on TV or online. Two thirds of nationals reported watching soccer in the last 12 months (64%), likely influenced by the 2018 FIFA World Cup (watched by 63% of nationals).