Nine years after the fall of Qaddafi, Libya is struggling to end its political division and violent conflict which in turn has contributed to an array of socioeconomic challenges and fraying the social cohesion.
2021 marks the start of the peace process by the UN-led Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF). This included the selection of an interim Prime Minister whose national unity government will hold power until the 2021 Libyan general election is held.
In this context, BBC Media Action social media platform project “El Kul” aims to contribute to rebuilding the country’s social cohesion by providing its over 1 million followers with accurate and memorable stories that represent Libya in all its diversity.
It does so through promoting the voices of marginalized groups; countering hate speech; highlighting the human cost of conflict; emphasizing the type of challenges and aspirations that connect young Libyans; and providing them with a safe space to discuss issues of importance to their lives.
In order to inform El Kul content and support our Libyan media and civil society partners, BBC Media Action conducted quantitative research in Libya to:
(a) explore public opinion on the current political situation in Libya;
(b) understand people’s attitude toward the LPDF efforts and power transition, attitude and perception in relation to democratic transition and election; and
(c) identify the public expectation from the media over the upcoming months in the ongoing reforms.
The sample was designed to be nationally representative of Libya’s adult population (18+) by gender and region.
The survey consisted of telephone survey with 650 respondents who were randomly selected. BBC Media Action contracted Diwan Research, a local research agency, to conduct the survey in April 2021 under the oversight of the research team.
Significance testing was applied to test for any significant differences in results by key demographics. Only significant differences are highlighted in this report (likely to be real, not observed because of error or chance).
SURVEY DEMOGRAPHICS: KEY FINDINGS
• Over half (53%) of Libyans believe that the political situation in the country has improved, compared to the situation one year ago, and 76% expressed their intention to vote in the upcoming elections. This represents a largely optimistic outlook which may be due to the successful selection of a national unity government in March 2021.This optimism about the political situation is higher in the West (58%) and the East (45%) compared to the South (36%).
• Libyans from the South were also less likely to say that voting would give people like them a chance to influence decision making. In fact, 25% of those in the South disagreed or strongly disagreed that voting give them a chance to influence decision making compared to those in the West (9%) and in the East (15%).
• Libyans largely see elections as important and believe that citizens should try to participate in future elections. 64% of Libyans perceive democracy as the best form of governance for Libya and 80% view elections as a means to influence decision making in the country. However, 87% of Libyans note that, in their opinion, stability is more important than the preservation of democratic rights, and 52% of Libyans believe that sometimes its necessary to use violence in support of a just case.
• Libyans are more engaged in civic than political initiatives. In total, 27% said that they have participated in local civil society initiatives in the past, while only 10% attended a meeting or rally organised by a political party/leader over the same period. Nearly half (47%) Libyans said that they would never participate in meetings or rally organised by a political party/leader, while 42% said that they might do so in the future.
• Libyans living in the West (23%) are more likely to be involved in political meetings or rallies compared to those in the South (9%) and the East (10%). Those living in the South are almost twice as likely to attend a community meeting (39%) or contact a community leader or public official (16%) or call a radio or television talk show or write to a newspaper (25%) to express their opinion.
• Libyans (70%) perceive that politics are complicated and that they cannot really understand what is happening. However, 74% of Libyans agreed or strongly agreed that they have something to say when political issues or problems are being discussed.
• The majority (70%) of Libyans say that they know nothing about the UN-LED LPDF roadmap. However, the two thirds are either fairly (37%) or very (24%) confident in the ability of the interim government to lead the country to credible, inclusive, and democratic national elections in December 2021. They are also fairly or very confident that the LPDF roadmap and the elections will produce a lasting peaceful and stable outcome for Libya.
• The most trusted sources of information about the peace process in Libya, including the elections reported by the respondents were friends & family (70%), Libyan Radio & TV (53%), international media & religious leaders (48%), Libyan social media (46%) and election candidates (45%), while the least trusted source of information were members of Parliament. 60% of Libyans are likely not to trust members of the Parliament.
• In addition to reporting the results of the elections (88%) and the development of elections’ campaigns (80%), Libyans expect media to: provide a platform for the public to communicate their concerns, opinions, and needs (85%); to cover the elections in a non-inflammatory way, to discourage violence (83%); to combat/ correct false or misleading information circulating about the elections (83%); and to educate voters on how to exercise their democratic rights (78%).
PUBLIC OPINION ABOUT THE CURRENT POLITICAL SITUATION
Libyans are optimistic about the political situation especially those living in the West and the East.
• Over half (53%) of all Libyans believe that the political situation in the country has improved, compared to the situation one year ago, while 28% believe it has gotten worse. 17% perceive the situation as unchanged.
• This represents a largely optimistic outlook which may be due to the successful selection of a national unity government in March 2021. In 2018, only 16% saw the political situation as being better than a year prior, with 35% saying it was the same (IFES Survey on Voters’ Intent: Libya, 2018).
• There is more optimism about the political situation in the West and the East of Libya compared to the South: Libyans living in the West and the East of the country are more likely to say that the political situation is improving (58% and 45% respectively), compared to those living in the South (36%).
MAIN ISSUES AFFECTING LIBYANS
Security and economic issues are the top issues affecting Libyans.
• Libya is affected by economic issues such as unemployment, poverty, high cost of living, and cash shortage. Half of those interviewed reported that the country is affected by these issues. They also reported security issues (e.g. insecurity, conflict, militias/ gangs, terrorism/extremism) and political/governance issues (e.g. political division, political situation, poor leadership, corruption, lack of government) at 38% and 25% respectively.
• Female respondents were more likely to mention economic issues. 62% of female respondents reported economic issues such as unemployment, poverty, high cost of living, and cash shortage compared to 40% of males.
• Social issues such as early marriage, conflict/tension between tribes, drug/ alcohol abuse, or gender inequality or discrimination were more likely to be reported by urban respondents at 10% compared to 2% of their rural counterpart.
This research report is made possible by the support of the UK Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund (CSSF)
BBC Media Action in England & Wales