Searching for Stability: The Arab Barometer Surveys a Divided Libya​

Drawing from an Arab Barometer survey undertaken in March and April 2014, Fathi Ali and Michael Robbins document the evolution of Libyans’ opinions about their country’s institutions, desired political system, and their self-perception in relation to regional and global actors.

The researchers point out that despite economic distress and deteriorating security, a good share of the Libyan population still feels a sense of victory following the Arab Spring. However, this could be called into question if no solid institutions and leadership come to hold the reins of state and ensure security. A major obstacle to establishing a stronger state lies in the divisions within the population, mainly along partisan lines: there is no clear preference for any political system, nor, despite a commitment to democracy, any certainty about its suitability for the country.

Contrary to common beliefs, Libyans express relative openness to stronger security and economic ties with the United States, though a majority believes that Washington should not interfere in the Arab World’s affairs. On foreign policy, most Libyans surveyed consider that their country should seek partnerships with regional actors such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Tunisia.

The Arab Barometer uses in-depth public opinion surveys to track attitudes in Arab countries with respect to pluralism, freedom, conceptions of governance and democracy, civic and political participation, social and religious values. Survey waves were carried out in 2006-08 and in 2010-11. This third wave, conducted in 2013, puts in perspective deep trends beyond the turbulence of daily events. More information is available at

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.