Public Opinion Poll on Reform in Jordan by iat16401

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                               Center for Strategic Studies         Tel.: 962 6 5355666
                               University of Jordan                 Fax: 962 6 5355515
                               www.css-jordan.org                   css@css-jordan.org




      Center for Strategic Studies – Jordan University

            Opinion Poll on Reform in Jordan
                  Executive Summary


                       January 2007


                 Mohammed al-Masri Ph D,
                   Coordinator, Poll Unit
                   Tel.: 962-6- 5300100
                   Mob. 962- 777499554
                 mo.almasri@css-jordan.org


http://www.jcss.org/SubDefault.aspx?PageId=79&EventId=31
The last few years have witnessed a major surge in interest in the concept of
reform across the Arab world. Throughout the region, the notion of reform
has become fundamental to the writings and speeches of governments and
oppositions alike. It has also become an integral part of the analyses and
strategies developed by civil society organizations operating in a diverse
range of fields, as well as a major topic of interest in the media and among
intellectuals.

Reform, whether considered holistically or with relation to specific fields, has
long been a well-known concept in the region but has recently re-emerged in
a new context. Moreover, the topic of reform has come to occupy a central
position in various sectors including the economic, political, social and
cultural sectors. Thus, it is unsurprising that definitions of reform are often
inconsistent, and sometimes even contradictory. Moreover, there has been
considerable conflict and debate regarding which sectors should be prioritized
in the reform process as well as regarding the appropriate mechanisms and
strategies for implementation.

Given that the goal of reform in the Arab world is the economic, political,
social and human well-being of Arab societies, it is important to understand
publics’ conceptualizations of the reform process. To this end, the Centre for
Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan has conducted a public opinion
poll on behalf of the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) concerning reform in
several Arab countries including Jordan. This executive summary presents
the survey’s Jordanian findings.

This survey aims, firstly, to examine the Arab street’s conceptualization of
the notion of reform. It also aims to gauge public opinion towards the reform
process both generally, and particularly with respect to key elements of
reform in the economic, political, social and cultural sectors. Respondents’
evaluations of specific elements of the reform process were sought in order
to serve as an assessment of the tangible results arising from the reform
process. This, in turn, serves to highlight areas in which improvements need
to be made. For example, the importance placed by the public on
guaranteeing political freedoms has clear implications for the prioritization of
political reforms. It is to this end that this study aims to present a picture of
Jordanian society’s outlook on reform. The findings of this survey are
analyzed with a view to guiding debates on reform and contributing to the
formulation of visions and strategies more in line with public opinion.

This survey was carried out by the Center for Strategic Studies from 7/12
until 14/12/2006 and comprised of personal face-to-face interviews with a
representative sample of 1151 people.

1- Conceptualizations of Reform
The concept of reform is neither obscure nor foreign to the Jordanian public.
To the contrary, the results of this survey show a high degree of public


                                       2
awareness regarding the concept of reform with 86% of respondents able to
provide a definition of reform.

An analysis of respondents’ definitions of reform reveals a conceptualization
of reform built on an understanding of the difficulties and challenges faced in
the Arab world; this applies both to current discourses on reform in general
and on particular reforms in particular spheres. Our results also show that
there exist several prevalent conceptions of reform. A quarter of respondents
defined the reform process as encompassing reforms in all fields; others
defined the reform process as pertaining to economic reform and economic
issues. There was also a smaller segment of the public which defined the
reform process with reference to administrative reform and combating
corruption while an even smaller segment defined reform as encompassing
both political and economic reform. In their definitions of reform, a significant
number of respondents focused on questions pertaining to political reform,
the reform of political institutions, democratization, and the guaranteeing of
freedom of expression and the press.

Importantly, our findings suggest that despite widespread public awareness
about the reform process and its importance, there is no public consensus
regarding the definition of reform. It is, however, possible to distinguish
between four prevalent conceptualizations of reform among the Jordanian
public as follows: 1) reform as a holistic process encompassing all spheres;
2) economic reform; 3) political reform; and 4) administrative reform and
combating corruption.

Finally, with regard to public opinion towards Jordan’s openness to the
outside world, there is some consensus that would be better for Jordan to
either become more open or to maintain the same level of openness, with
only a minority of respondents in favor of less openness to the outside world.


2- Democratization and Aspirations for Political Reform

This section deals with public opinion towards issues related to political
reform and its priorities. Issues examined here include: guarantees of
political freedoms, the democratization process, the development of political
systems, and the performance of the Chamber of Deputies. These are issues
which have been recognized as fundamental to the reform agenda. Public
opinion surrounding these issues should serve as an indication of their
relative importance to the reform agenda and as an indication of the public’s
receptiveness to possible reform initiatives in this sector.

Basic Freedoms and Democracy

There is some degree of consensus among Jordanians that basic freedoms
such as freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of thought,
personal freedom, freedom to elect MPs, freedom to join a political party, etc.



                                       3
 are essential for promoting democracy. Indeed, a vast majority of the
 respondents to our survey perceive the above-mentioned freedoms as
 fundamental pillars of democracy. Moreover, although all of these freedoms
 are considered important, our results suggest that some are considered more
 important than others. In particular, personal freedom, freedom of
 expression and freedom of the press are generally considered more
 important for promoting democracy than the freedom to participate in
 peaceful sit-ins and demonstrations or the freedom to belong to a political
 party or to establish political organizations.

 Moreover, public opinion regarding the extent to which these freedoms are
 currently guaranteed is high with a majority of respondents perceiving the
 following freedoms as guaranteed: freedom of ownership, freedom to elect
 MPs and municipal councils, freedom of movement, freedom of thought,
 personal freedom and freedom of belief. However, a division in public opinion
 emerges regarding the extent to which the following freedoms are
 guaranteed: freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom to join
 civil society organizations, and freedom to organize public meetings. Finally,
 less than half of respondents perceive the following freedoms as guaranteed:
 freedom to join a political party, freedom to establish political organizations,
 freedom to participate in peaceful sit-ins and demonstrations and to take
 legal action against the state and its institutions.

 There is also a dominant perception that over the past three years, there has
 been an improvement in the extent to which these freedoms are guaranteed.
 Furthermore, the Jordanian public is generally optimistic that there will be
 greater guarantee of these freedoms in three years time.

  Table 1- Importance of freedoms for promoting democracy & trends
                   in the guaranteeing of freedom
                                 Important for       Guaranteed 3    Currently        Will be
                                   promoting          years ago     guaranteed    guaranteed in 3
                                   democracy              %             %              years
                                      %                                                 %
Personal freedom               91.4              72.1               76.9         80.3

Freedom of thought             90.4              69.1               75.3         79.9
Freedom of expression          89.4              49.5               57.9         69.5
Freedom of the press           88.6              50.7               59.0         70.3

Freedom to elect MPs           88.5              73.7               79.0         81.5
Freedom of ownership           88.4              73.9               80.0         82.1
Freedom to elect               88.3              73.3               78.3         81.4
municipalities
Freedom of movement            85.5              71.3               78.0         81.2
Freedom to take legal action   79.0              40.0               43.0         59.7
against the state and its
institutions
Freedom of belief              72.8              54.7               60.1         69.7
Freedom to organize public     72.5              50.4               55.4         66.1
meetings




                                                 4
Freedom to establish political   68.6   45.4         49.5         63.0
parties and organizations
Freedom to join civil society    68.2   51.4         57.5         66.4
organizations
Freedom to join political        65.7   46.5         41.2         60.7
parties and organizations
Freedom to participate in        63.2   40.6         45.0         61.0
peaceful sit-ins and protests



 Jordanian public opinion towards democracy is consistent, with public opinion
 attracted to democratic models of governance in principle, and aware of the
 importance of the above-mentioned freedoms to a functioning democratic
 system. There is, however, a discrepancy between public opinion regarding
 the importance of these rights on the one hand, and public opinion regarding
 the extent to which they are guaranteed on the other. That is to say that the
 Jordanian public perceives a shortcoming in the extent to which these
 freedoms are guaranteed.

 Public opinion towards the guarantee of freedoms in Jordan roughly
 corresponds to public evaluation of the standard of democracy in Jordan.
 Respondents to this survey gave Jordanian democracy a rating of 5.8 on a
 scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 signifies the beginning of the road to democracy
 and 10 signifies a fully democratic country). Approximately a sixth of
 respondents believe that Jordan was more democratic three years ago than it
 is today, while the majority is divided between those who believe that Jordan
 is more democratic than it was three years ago and those who perceive no
 change. Overall, the public is cautiously optimistic regarding the future of
 democracy in Jordan.

 Political institutions

 A majority of respondents expressed the opinion that the best system of
 governance for Jordan is one in which the governing authority is elected,
 guarantees political freedoms, and where parliament oversees governing
 powers and holds them to account. This compares to about a third of
 respondents who expressed the opinion that the most appropriate system of
 governance for Jordan is an authoritarian/semi-authoritarian system in which
 governing powers do not take account of election results or opposition views.
 Public opinion remains divided over whether a political system governed by
 clerics would be appropriate.

 The public’s preference for democratic political systems is not merely value-
 based, but reflects a belief that such systems function better on a practical
 level. Indeed, 40% of respondents held the view that democratic political
 systems are the most likely to improve their family’s economic
 circumstances, compared to only 2% who held the view that an
 authoritarian/semi-authoritarian system would be most likely to improve
 their family’s economic circumstances. 10% of respondents held the view




                                        5
that a political system governed by clerics would be best with regards to
improving their family’s economic circumstances.

Figure 1- Perceived potential of various political systems to improve
          economic circumstances of respondents’ families
     %




45
                 39.8
40

35

30

25                                                                             22.2
20
                                                 15.8
15
                                                                                                             9.9
10

 5                                                                                                                                           2.2
 0
      1. A sy stem gov erned by an      2. A sy stem in which the   3. A combination of 1 and 2,   4. A sy stem gov erned by   5. A political sy stem gov erned
     elected authority , guaranteeing    gov ernment is run by      but ov erseen by the head of             clerics             by a strong authority which
        political f reedoms, where            technocrats                       state                                              takes decisions without
        parliament and the media                                                                                                  consideration f or election
        monitor the gov ernment                                                                                                  results or opposition v iews
       departments in charge and
         hold them accountable




The public’s preference for democratic political systems is also manifested in
the finding that there is some degree of consensus that democracy promotes
stability, this suggests that the majority of the Jordanian public does not see
democracy as a threat to national stability.

The Jordanian public also holds a favorable view of political reform (defined
here as the transition to more democratic models of governance) with more
than 80% of respondents holding the view that political reform will improve
their family’s living standards. This is compared to a statistically insignificant
3% of respondents who held the view that political reform will worsen their
family’s living standards. With regard to the processes involved in political
reform, the vast majority of the public believes that reform should be of a
gradual nature, although a quarter of respondents took the view that
complete reform should be undertaken immediately. There is also consensus
that the Jordanian people are well-equipped for democracy, with only 5%
holding the view that they are not.

The public considers the criteria that qualify a country as democratic to be:
the reform of political institutions and the guarantee of fundamental public
freedoms, particularly freedom of the press and of expression.


Public evaluation of the Chamber of Deputies

As has been shown, Jordanian public opinion displays a preference for
democratic political systems. Moreover, around 60% of the public believes
that the latest elections to the Chamber of Deputies were free and fair. At
the same time, the public’s evaluation of the Chamber of Deputies’


                                                                                  6
performance is negative overall. More than 50% of respondents held the
view that the Chamber of Deputies did not fulfill its role in holding the
government to account, communicating with citizens and representing their
concerns, monitoring governmental activities and performing its legislative
role. All this suggests that there is a public crisis of confidence regarding the
Chamber of Deputies’ performance.

           Figure 2- Public evaluation of the Chamber of Deputies
         %




60.0
               49.5
50.0                                47.4                46.8

                                                                             38.6
40.0                                                                                               36.2

30.0

20.0

10.0

 0.0
            Monitoring          Performing its    Holding government   Communicating w ith     Expressing the
       government activities   legislative role        to account          citizens          community's needs
                                                                                                and problems



The lack of satisfaction with the Chamber’s performance is linked to the way
in which the electorate chooses its representatives. A majority of those who
voted in the latest elections reported that they had based their electoral
choice on the candidate’s ability to deliver services to his/her constituents or
on the basis of a familial relationship to the candidate. The candidate’s
competence in parliamentary affairs was not a major factor in shaping voters’
electoral decisions. It may be that citizens’ lack of confidence in the Chamber
of Deputies ability to perform its parliamentary role leads voters to base their
electoral choice on other factors.


3- Selected Social, Cultural and Religious Issues

This survey examines social and cultural attitudes through gauging public
opinion on the key issues of women’s rights, the parent-child relationship and
religion/ijtihad (interpretation of Islam). Measuring public opinion towards
these specific issues helps us to determine the mainstream values held by
society with regard to these issues, as well as giving an indication of the
extent to which the public would be receptive to reform initiatives in these
fields.

Women’s rights




                                                       7
There is public consensus that women should have equal rights to education
as men, with majority opinion also supporting women’s equal rights to work
in the political sphere and occupy ministerial and judicial posts. The
Jordanian public also supports a woman’s right to drive a car and to refuse a
marriage arranged by her family without her consent. Around three quarters
of respondents stated that women and men should have equal rights to
petition for divorce while around two thirds of respondents believed that it
should be mandatory for a man to seek the permission of his first wife before
taking a second. But despite the public’s clear support for women’s rights in
the aforementioned fields, public opinion is divided as to whether women
should have the right to become Prime Minister. Although a woman has yet
to be appointed to the post of Prime Minister, public opinion is not
categorically against such an appointment. Also of interest is the finding that
a majority of respondents feel that a woman should not have the right to
travel alone. It is not clear why opposition to women traveling alone is so
much more pronounced than opposition to other women’s rights. It may be
that this reflects a lack of experience with women traveling alone in
Jordanian society.


                 Table 2- Issues pertaining to women’s rights
                                                                                     Respondents
                                                                                       agreeing
                                                                                          %
  Women should have the same right to education as men                                   95.3
  Women should have the right to drive a car                                             87.1
  Women should have the same right to employment as men                                  86.7
  A woman should have the right to refuse a marriage arranged by her family              85.0
  without her consent
  Women and men should have equal rights to petition for divorce                        75.9
  Women should have the same right to work in politics as men                           71.5
   Women should have the same right to occupy ministerial posts as men                  68.2
   Women should have the same right to occupy judicial posts as men                     66.7
  It should be mandatory for a man to seek the permission of his first wife before      63.0
  taking a second
  Women should have the same right as men to take up the highest political office       57.5
  in the country (Prime Minister)
  Women should have the right to travel alone                                           33.7



The parent-child relationship

The relationship between parents and their children (daughters/sons) is a
prominent social and cultural issue in Arab societies. The results of this
survey suggest that there is no general consensus regarding the nature of
this relationship in Jordanian society. On the one hand, the public supports
the idea that the law should protect children treated violently by their
parents, that children have the right to disagree with their parents and that
children should be dealt with using dialogue and persuasion, rather than by
imposing views on them. This suggests public support for children’s rights in
principle. However, a majority of Jordanians also agreed that children must
obey their parents regardless of whether or not they agree with them. Public



                                                  8
opinion is divided on the questions of whether or not children are denied
some of their rights, whether parents have the right to hit their children and
whether children should carry out their parents’ wishes, even if they do not
agree with them.

All this suggests that although there is public support for children’s rights in
principle, it seems that this does not always translate into support for
children’s rights when it comes to actual childrearing practices.

       Table 3- Issues pertaining to the parent-child relationship
                                                                                    Respondents
                                                                                      agreeing
                                                                                         %
  Children should be dealt with using dialogue and persuasion, rather than by           91.7
  imposing views on them
  The law should protect children treated violently by their parents                   87.1
  Children have the right to disagree with their parents                               77.8
  Children must obey their parents regardless of whether or not they agree with        76.7
  them
  Children should carry out their parents’ wishes, even if they do not agree with      57.2
  them
  Children are denied some of their rights                                             52.6
  Parents have the right to hit their children                                         42.8



Religious issues

This survey measured public opinion on a number of religious issues which
have proved particularly contentious across the Arab world in the past few
years. There is some degree of consensus among the Jordanian public that
religious minorities and different schools of Islamic thought should be
tolerated in society and that a person’s religious or denominational
background should not cast doubt on their patriotism.

With respect to ijtihad (religious interpretation) in Islam, there is some
degree of consensus that it is not heretical for religious scholars to present
differing interpretations of religion and that religious scholars should tolerate
social and political opinions that differ from their own. It is also worth noting
that almost two thirds of respondents held the view that differences and
inconsistencies in the religious interpretations of different Muslim scholars
are a good thing. Moreover, 58.1% of respondents agreed that individuals in
Muslim societies should be able to choose between different religious
interpretations and schools of Islamic thought. These findings suggest that
the Jordanian public accepts the existence of different religious groups and
beliefs and rejects extremist attitudes towards those with different beliefs.
However, it is important to note that three quarters of respondents prefers
that there exist only one interpretation of Islam, with the prohibition of
pluralism in ijtihad.

                       Table 4- Issues pertaining to religion
                                                                                    Respondents
                                                                                      agreeing




                                                   9
                                                                                                         %
Religious minorities have the right to practice their beliefs freely                                    83.1
It is not heretical for religious scholars to present differing interpretations of religion             80.8
Religious scholars should tolerate social and political opinions that differ from their                 79.6
own
A person’s religious or denominational background should not cast doubt on their                        79.2
patriotism
There should be one interpretation of Islam, pluralism in ijtihad should be prohibited                  76.0
Differences and inconsistencies in the religious interpretations of different Muslim                    63.3
scholars are a good thing
Individuals in Muslim societies should be able to choose between different religious                    58.1
interpretations and schools of Islamic thought



4- The Economy and Service Provision

This section dealt with people’s perceptions of the country’s economic
situation in general, and more specifically, the economic situation of their
families. It also indirectly measured public satisfaction with economic reform
by asking respondents to rate the standard of service provision in several key
sectors, some of which are provided publicly and others which are provided
privately.

In contrast to the public’s relative optimism regarding the process of political
reform in Jordan, public opinion towards the economic situation of the
country remains divided. Respondents perceived deterioration in the
economic situation in Jordan as well as the economic situation of their
families over the past three years. Moreover, there is a perception that the
economic situation will not improve over the next three years.

              Table 5- Public evaluation of the economic situation
                          (% of positive evaluations)
                                                          3 years ago     Today     In 3 years

                   Economic situation of Jordan               66.6         48.8        47.4
                   Economic situation of your family          63.8         53.0        50.2




Despite the relatively negative perception of the economic situation in Jordan
and of respondents’ families, the majority of respondents gave a very
positive evaluation of the services provided by the police, both in general and
in their area of residence. Higher education services provided by the state
were also reviewed favorably, as were state schools and state healthcare.
The performance of these services is perceived as having improved over the
past three years, with the current standard of services expected to be
maintained around the current level over the coming 3 years.

   Table 6- Public evaluation of standards of public service provision
                      (% of positive evaluations)
                              Standard of services 3      Current standard of         Standard of provision 3
                                   years ago                   provision                 years from now
 State schools                          53.9                       65.0                          66.7



                                                       10
 State healthcare               51.9                       63.1                    67.2
 services
 State universities             56.4                       68.7                    66.9
 Police (in general)            56.1                       80.2                    73.3
 Police (in your area of        56.3                       77.4                    73.0
 residence)



The public’s evaluation of privately provided services was also reasonably
positive with public opinion indicating satisfaction with private schooling,
healthcare, telecommunications companies, banks, insurance companies and
passenger transport. As with publicly provided services, there is a perception
that the standard of privately provided services has improved over the past
three years, and an expectation that the current standard of services will be
maintained over the next 3 years.

 Table 7- Public evaluation of standards of private service provision
                     (% of positive evaluations)
                               Standard of             Current     Standard of provision 3
                             services 3 years        standard of      years from now
                                   ago                provision
      Private schools              55.3                 71.9                68.7

      Private clinics and         53.2                  75.5                70.8
      hospitals
      Private universities        54.4                  68.5                68.8
      Telecommunications          51.5                  73.3                71.1
      Banks                       53.6                  72.1                70.4
      Insurance companies         53.4                  67.7                68.3
      Private passenger           52.5                  63.8                67.4
      transport


These results suggest that there is room for improvement in publicly
provided services and that the Jordanian public would be receptive to
reforms to this end.


5- The Media

Public perceptions of government-owned and privately-owned media are
similar. Just over half of respondents hold the view that government-owed
media is fair and presents opposing points of view while around two-thirds of
respondents believe that government-owed media contributes to spreading
public awareness and communicating citizens’ problems to authority figures.
There also seems to be a public perception that the media’s performance in
these categories has improved over the past 3 years. Interestingly, the
public’s evaluation of the privately-owned media is almost identical to its
evaluation of government-owned media. Importantly, these results suggest
that there remains much room for improvement in both the privately and
government-owned media.




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        Table 8- Perceptions of government-owned media
                                                       3 years ago   Today   In 3 years
                                                            %          %         %
Fair                                                   49.2          58.8    65.1

Presents opposing points of view                       48.7          60.0    66.0

Contributes to spreading public awareness              49.8          65.7    67.2
Communicates citizens’ problems to authority figures   48.9          62.3    66.0




       Table 9- Public evaluation of privately-owned media
                                                       3 years ago   Today   In 3 years
                                                            %          %         %
Fair                                                   50.2          59.2    66.6
Presents opposing points of view                       50.6          62.3    67.0
Contributes to spreading public awareness              50.6          61.3    67.6
Communicates citizens’ problems to authority figures   49.8          57.9    66.7




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