Public attitudes in Yemen: living conditions and the security situation

From 23 February through 30 March 2017, the Yemen Polling Center (YPC) conducted a study to understand Yemeni citizens’ perceptions toward the economic and political situation in Yemen amid the growing security chaos. The center received responses from 4,000 individuals from all Yemeni governorates except Sa’dah and Soqotra, and women represented 50% of the respondents. Twenty-nine percent of respondents reported completing at least secondary school, and over 6 percent reported having a college degree. The majority of respondents (75.6%) were between the age of 18 to 45.

In general, the opinions about personal safety and security are conflicting. Most respondents (59%) reported that they are “mostly” or “always” feeling safe in Yemen; however, there was some variance between provinces as 55% of Al-Baydha residents showed serious concerns about their personal safety, mainly due to airstrikes and armed clashes. When asked for the main threat that endangers their personal safety, 30% of respondents selected airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition as the primary threat, followed by Houthi bombings (9%) and terrorism/al-Qaeda (2%).

In addition to personal safety, respondents were asked whether they have received some kind of assistance since the beginning of the war. The majority of respondents (53%) reported that they have received assistance at least once, of which 69% said the assistance didn’t sufficiently meet their needs. In the south, Red Crescent UAE provides most of the aid according to 33% of the respondents, while the World Food Program (WFP), UNICEF,  and Ro’ya Amal Organization provided aid to 31% of the respondents in the North. Overall, 31% of aid in Yemen is met by the WFP, UNICEF and Red Crescent UAE.

Responses to questions about access to water are overall negative in all governorates. This perfectly aligns with the reality that the war-torn country has been facing a massive cholera outbreak with millions in dire need of aid. On public services, 67% of respondents believe the provision of services is worse than before, and most agree that the war, siege, and airstrikes are to blame for the poor public services.

There is a general consensus that the security and political situation and the fight against corruption in Yemen are going in the wrong direction, indicating the incompetence of the Yemeni government to properly manage the areas it controls. Accordingly, the majority of respondents (57%) reported that the provision of security should not rest in the hands of the state alone, and a large number of them showed support to the involvement of the Popular Committees, local councils, and tribal shaykhs in protecting the people and maintaining stability and security.

The beliefs on the future of the armed conflict in Yemen were extremely diverse. Dialogue, ceasefire, and the halting of the coalition airstrikes are seen as the necessary steps to end the war by 39% of the respondents. Some other respondents proposed the formation of a new government and putting the Houthis out of the political scene. On the other hand, opinions about southern independence exhibited a high amount of opposition as 84% of respondents rejected the separation of the south from the north and 68% rejected the idea of dividing Yemen into 6 regions. In southern governorates, where thousands protested for independence in July 2017, the majority of respondents, primarily in Abyan and Shabwa governorates, showed support to dividing the country into two regions.

The most sensitive questions in the survey addressed gender issues in the county and explored the role of women in the society. The majority of respondents (86%) strongly disagreed that women should be allowed to report crimes when not accompanied by a male relative, and showed unwillingness to support female family members who are interested in joining the police. However, respondents were split on whether there should be female police officers in Yemen or not. Those who opposed the idea pointed that having women police officers is against the country’s culture and religion, while supporters of the idea saw women police officers as a need of the society to protect women and deal with them.