skip to main content
Fewer Feel Safe in Several Arab Spring Countries

Fewer Feel Safe in Several Arab Spring Countries

by H.A. Hellyer

ABU DHABI -- Residents in several Arab countries affected by uprisings feel less safe now than they did before those uprisings took place. Egyptians feel the least secure, with the percentage who say they feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where they live dropping to 47% in 2011 from 82% in 2010. Perceived safety also decreased substantially over the same period in Tunisia and Bahrain, while differences in attitudes in Yemen are not significant.

Do you feel safe walking alone?

These declines are not necessarily relative to the actual increases in violence or crime in the countries. Gallup previously found that in Egypt, for example, media consumption can affect perceptions of safety.

The uprisings in these four countries in 2011 resulted in different outcomes. In Egypt, the uprising led to long-time ruler President Hosni Mubarak's resignation. In Tunisia, former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's regime was dismantled. In both countries, this also led to the security services, including the police forces, losing much of their former power.

The upheaval in Yemen is leading to a transition from President Ali Abdullah Saleh's rule to the election of a new president. The presence of arms among Yemeni civilians is often common, perhaps explaining why their safety perceptions did not change from 2010 to 2011 -- it was also already lower to begin with. Despite ongoing protests calling for a constitutional monarchy in Bahrain, the country's ruling elite still remain in power. In Bahrain, the intervention of other Gulf countries into the country and the engagement of Bahraini security forces in neutralizing protests was likely striking to a large number of Bahraini civilians, thereby possibly affecting their perceptions of safety.


Regardless of whether residents' perceptions of safety are accurate or based on real-life experiences, there are serious potential ramifications for each of these countries. In countries where tourism previously made up a substantial part of the national economy, such as Egypt and Tunisia, perceptions of safety are important for the domestic and international tourism industry to thrive. Domestic tourists may feel less safe to travel outside of their immediate cities and towns to other parts of the country they know less well, while international tourists may feel that traveling to these countries is not safe at all. Where violent conflict remains, support for transitions or reforms may wane if the broader population perceives them as undermining community safety and stability. This is particularly the case where such demands fall along ethnic lines.

Investment and trade with international actors may also be affected by perceptions of drops in safety, whether with neighboring Arab states, European partners, or the U.S. From the point of view of foreign investors, the perceived risk of doing business in these countries has risen in the past year. The drop in tourism, which accounts for a significant part of the GDP in several of these countries, has negatively affected the broader macroeconomic picture. A perceived lack of safety in these countries, moreover, can cause concerns that the banking systems are being disrupted, and that ports and airports are not as secure as they once were. Poor assessments of stability, directly linked to impressions of safety, can also lead investors to investing in less profitable, but more stable, countries. This is currently the case for investors in European countries, where economic instability is affecting the willingness of investors and venture capitalists to take risks in engaging with these Arab uprising economies

The state and nongovernmental actors in each of these countries must take action to address these feelings of insecurity, whether real or perceived, understanding that perceptions can affect political and economic spheres as much as actual crime rates.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with at least 1,000 adults in each country, aged 15 and older, conducted after the uprisings in 2011, and before the uprisings in 2010, in Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia, and Yemen. In Bahrain, Gallup conducted surveys with nationals and Arab expatriates only. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3.3 to ±3.9 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030