Trends in Values among Saudi Youth: Findings from Values Surveys

Publication Abstract

Moaddel M, and de Jong J. 2013. "Trends in Values among Saudi Youth: Findings from Values Surveys." Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 6(1): 151-164.

Scholars have recognized the significant role played by youth in the Arab Spring. This recognition, however, has been either based on anecdotal evidence, as the foot soldiers of protests were typically young, or simply deduced from the age structure of the populations of Arab countries, which shows a large proportion of adults concentrated in the fifteen-to-twenty-nine age group.1 There is, however, empirical evidence to support the view that the movement for change that was triggered with the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor (1) reflected wider changes in people’s sociopolitical and cultural values toward secular politics and nationalism and departure from political Islam, and (2) that youth have been more supportive of some of these changes than the rest of the population.2 The nature of these changes, with young people in particular interested in securing more cultural and social freedom, coupled with broad support for a move toward a democratic form of government, will be important to consider as the movements of the Arab Spring are shaping the formation of a new political order in the region.

Although the movements for democracy have been much weaker in Saudi Arabia than in other countries of the region, it would be a mistake to think that the kingdom has remained immune to change. On the contrary, the Saudi public has displayed an increasing desire for individualist values, democracy, gender equality, less intrusion in daily life by religious authorities, and a wider recognition of national rather than religious identity. On some of these measures, the changes in values are more remarkable among Saudi youth than among their elders. The evidence for these changes is provided by findings from values surveys carried out in the kingdom in 2003 and 2011.

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