Are the Youth or the Middle Class Driving Change in the Middle East?

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Age or Class? Leading Opinions in the Wake of Egypt’s 2011 Popular Uprisings This Discussion Paper has been presented as a part of the workshop called The Social-Economic Situation of Middle East Youth on the Eve of the Arab Spring, hosted on December 8 - 9th, 2012 at the American University in Beirut. Paper is looking at public opinion in Egypt, using the two waves of 2000 and 2008 World Value Survey, and find that there has been a major increase in popular support for democracy, a moderate increase in concerns about inequality, and a sizable fall in the support for political Islam. It examines how these opinions are clustered along class and age lines. The main findings are that while in 2000, younger Egyptians were more progressive than their parents, by 2008, Egyptian society had become much more organized around class interests and showed little inter-generational differentiation. I argue that this is not inconsistent with an important role for the youth in the shaping of the observed shifts in opinions over time. The data suggest that the increased support for democracy has come mainly from two groups -- middle class economically conservative Islamists, and middle class secular leftists.


Ishac Diwan

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