NMIT Working Papers

Working Papers on New Media & Information Technology in the Middle East

Changing Media Habits and Entertainment Preferences In Morocco: An Inter-Generational Analysis

Posted by meaningfulconnections on September 6, 2008

Mark Tessler, University of Arizona.
Paper delivered at a conference on Diffusion of New Information Technology in the Middle East. Tucson, AZ. April 14-16, 2000.*

As in much of the Arab world, Morocco possesses a massive number of young men and women who are reaching adulthood and entering the social mainstream, or who have done so within the last decade. This cohort of young people, which may be described as a political generation, offers the country both hope and an important challenge.  It remains to be seen whether and if so how, the emerging political generation will differ from those that preceded it, and with what implications. The present research report seeks both to contribute some preliminary answers and to stimulate further inquiry and investigation. The first part of the paper summarizes the characteristics and formative experiences of Morocco’s next political generation. The second part presents the results of public opinion research carried out in Morocco in 1995-1996. Data from this research are used to compare the attitudes and behavior patterns of different age cohorts and also to examine normative cleavages within the younger generation.


One major characteristic of Morocco’s emerging political generation is its size. With more than two-thirds of the population under the age of 35, men and women who were born and grew up in the mid-1960s or thereafter constitute the country’s demographic center of gravity. This is the result, of course, of rapid population growth. The birth rate did begin a steady decline in the early 1970s, decreasing from about 50 per 1,000 until it reached about 30 per 1,000 in the early 1990s. Nevertheless, even with this decline, the Moroccan population has nearly doubled during the last quarter-century (Sabagh 1993). Moreover, the mass of young people born since 1965 is only now reaching adulthood and taking its place within the mainstream of Moroccan society, meaning that only in the future will any effects associated with the reduced rate of population growth be felt. For the present, the generation of Moroccan men and women who are today embarking upon adult life and seeking to secure their personal and professional situations, those roughly between the ages of 18 and 30, or perhaps 35, is by far the largest cohort in this age range that the country has ever experienced. This political generation thus has great demographic weight; the attributes, attitudes, and life-styles of these young Moroccans, whatever they turn out to be, will be those of the vast majority of the country’s adult population.

The emerging generation is also more urban and, especially, better educated than those that preceded it. Although Morocco at present has an approximately equal number of rural and urban residents, this constitutes a dramatic and continuing change from the past. As a result of internal migration for the countryside to the cities, the rural population annually increased only 1-1.5 percent on average during the 1970s and 1980s. The urban population, by contrast, increased at an average annual rate of almost 5 percent per year (Amara 1993, p. 124). Moreover, the rural exodus appears to be strongest among younger individuals, meaning that not only is Morocco as a whole more urban than in the past but urban residence is more characteristic of younger than older adults.

Even more important has been the significant growth in education. While scholarization and access to advanced education lag in Morocco compared to many other Arab countries, growth has nonetheless been dramatic in absolute terms. This is particularly true in the cities, where the difference with the past is striking and where the proportion of well-educated men and women is much higher in the younger than in proceeding generations. From independence in 1956 until 1992, for example, the number of students enrolled in Moroccan universities grew from 1,819 to 230,000 (Eickelman 1997, p. 22). The dramatic increases in both secondary and post-secondary school enrollments between 1956 and 1992 are shown in the tables below, which demonstrate just how much more likely to be well-educated is the cohort of Moroccans that is now reaching adulthood (source: Bennani 1992; adapted from Eickelman 1997, p. 23).

Secondary School Enrollments in Morocco (1000s)

Post-Secondary School Enrollments in Morocco (1000s)

There are also differences in the character and content of education. On the one hand, the educational system was made more “Moroccan” during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Arabic became the principal language of instruction, and history, social studies and other curricula were revised to reflect the circumstances of the newly independent country. On the other, there have been frequent complaints about educational quality, with problems brought on, in part, by rapid enrollment growth at all levels and a resulting strain on resources and facilities. As summarized by a Moroccan scholar writing in the mid-1980s, “the quality of education has been a sore point over the years… [and] has led to insufficient or inadequate training of thousands of young Moroccans at very high costs” (Rhazaoui 1987, p. 151). Educated members of the younger generation were trained in a school system possessing these characteristics, whereas many older Moroccans, at least those 50 years of age or older, went to school either under the French or before post-independence educational reforms were fully implemented and the numbers in school had grown significantly.

A Critical Mass

This, then, is the background for an assessment of the attitudes and behavior patterns that will be brought into the social mainstream by the generation of Moroccans now reaching adulthood, or who have done so during the last decade and are today in the early stages of their professional careers. This cohort, as noted, is a product of the turbulent decades during which its members grew up and acquired their core values. It is also influenced by as the established political and economic order with which its members must deal in their present-day quest for meaningful adult lives. Finally, as noted as well, this new and emerging political generation is increasingly urban and well educated, and it is of sufficient size and demographic weight to give shape to Morocco’s social, cultural, and political ethos in the years ahead. Thus, against this background, the present study inquires into the orientations of young Moroccans between the ages of 18 and 35, asking both what these men and women believe and whether their views are similar to or different from those of the generations that preceded them.

A study of political generations in the Arab world in the 1970s characterized the emerging the cohort as a “critical mass.” Focusing on the first generation to pass through the formative years of socialization after independence, the study suggested that “the young Arabs approaching adulthood, the critical mass of the 1970s, will increasingly determine the outcome of competing trends.” Further, according to the author:

In addition to employment, the new generation will be seeking social status and a meaningful identity as Arabs. As they take their place in Arab society, there may well be conflicts and eruptions, and new political movements could arise, based on this class of young adults. Whether they will eventually turn out to be bridge or blockbuster in the national culture, cement or tinder in the fabric of the nation, their impact on the Arab world, its culture and development, will be critical (Mattson 1970, p. 13).

This assessment was prescient, with insights that foretold subsequent developments in many Arab countries, Morocco among them. The present study seeks to make a similar contribution, focusing on a larger and perhaps even more important political generation and laying a foundation for observing, and hopefully for understanding more fully, the evolution of Moroccan society and politics during the first decade or two of the twenty-first century.


The remainder of this study presents the results of public opinion research carried out in Morocco in late 1995 and early 1996. The attitudes of young Moroccans toward selected social and political issues are presented, and the nature and distribution of these attitudes are compared to those of older Moroccans. In this way, the study will shed light both on the views of the emerging political generation and on the degree to which these views portend political and cultural change.

Data and Methodology

The public opinion data to be analyzed were collected through systematic interviews with a representative sample of adults over the age of 18 in Rabat, the Moroccan capital. The study was part of a cross-national survey research project sponsored by the American Institute for Maghrib Studies and carried out in collaboration with social scientists at the University Mohammed V in Rabat, the University of Oran, and the University of Tunis. As part of this project, a parallel survey was also conducted in Oran, Algeria, and data from this survey are being analyzed elsewhere. Data collection has recently been completed in Tunis as well and will be available for analysis in the near future.

The overall design of the project, as well as methodological procedures pertaining to sample selection, interview schedule construction, the selection and training of interviewers, and preliminary data analysis, were developed at a series of workshops held in Morocco and Tunisia. Participants, primarily sociologists and demographers, included five Algerians, four Moroccans, two Tunisians, and four Americans. Professor Rahma Bourqia of Mohammed V University directed the Moroccan team that conducted the survey in Rabat. Support for the project was provided by the United States Information Agency and the Ford Foundation, as well as the home institutions of participating North African and American scholars.

A two-stage procedure was employed to ensure a representative sample of respondents. In the first, modified area probability sampling was used to construct a sample of households. Rabat was first divided into eight socioeconomic strata, based on the type of housing most commonly found in each, and 28 districts were then selected at random from within these strata. Since no listing of housing units was available, a procedure was devised to ensure some randomness in the selection of housing units to be included in the sample. One thousand households were selected, distributed as follows:

Luxury housing: 6 percent of households
Modern housing: 34 percent of households
Old and new medina: 29 percent of households
Poorest housing: 33 percent of households

In the second stage, the University of Michigan Survey Research Center method was employed to select randomly within each household one adult to whom a series of attitudinal questions was then asked. This procedure ensured that the sample would be generally representative of Rabat’s adult population with respect to age, education, and other demographic attributes.

Limiting the sample to Rabat was unavoidable given the resources available for the research, and this naturally reduces the degree to which findings can be generalized with confidence. At the same time, it should be noted that Rabat itself is a heterogeneous community, with great diversity in terms of wealth and life-style and with many recent immigrants from other parts of Morocco, including the country’s rural areas. Thus, particularly in view of the systematic sampling procedures employed within the parameters of Rabat, the 1,000 respondents on which the present study is based constitute a strong, if admittedly limited, foundation for discerning the orientations of Morocco’s emerging political generation.

Distributions on several demographic variables indicate the diverse character of the sample resulting from these procedures. For example, 47 percent of the respondents have had only primary schooling or less, whereas 20 percent have had a university education. With respect to living standards and consumption levels, 54 percent live in homes with a television set, 30 percent are members of a household with a car, and 21 percent live in homes that have a satellite dish antenna. Women are somewhat overrepresented in the sample, constituting 55 percent of all respondents.

The interviews were conducted by female students enrolled in the MA program in Sociology at Mohammed V University. These women received training and were also guided by an “interviewers manual” that was prepared specifically for this project. Fieldwork was carried out between December 26, 1995 and January 15, 1996. Only two households refused to participate in the survey.

In presenting the findings of the Rabat survey, respondents first have been divided into two categories on the basis of age. Those aged 35 and less constitute one category, representing the younger political generation. Older respondents constitute the second category, those who belong to a preceding political generation. While this or any other age division is of necessity somewhat arbitrary, it seems appropriate given the preceding discussion to define the younger generation as those who were born in 1961 or later and who reached the age at which political socialization begins in earnest no earlier than 1971 or 1972.

In addition to a division based on age, each generation has been subdivided on the basis of education. Four categories of education are employed: primary schooling or less, some post-primary schooling, secondary schooling, and university. The distribution of respondents possessing each combination of age and education levels is shown in the table below. It is not surprising that the proportion of individuals receiving a university education is much higher among the younger generation, whereas the proportion receiving no more than primary schooling is much higher among the older generation.

Primary or less

Some post-primary




(35 or less)











(36 or more)











The inclusion of education in the analysis is necessary to avoid spurious conclusions about generational differences. Since educational levels are much higher among younger individuals, an aggregate comparison of younger and older Moroccans would also be a comparison of populations with dissimilar amounts of education, thus confounding the effects of age and education and making it impossible to determine which of these was responsible for any differences that are observed. This problem can be avoided by comparing younger and older individuals with similar levels of education, however. Further, this has the advantage of indicating the locus across educational categories of intergenerational differences and similarities, thereby revealing when, as well as whether, younger and older Moroccans differ from one another.


Younger and older Moroccans are compared with respect to three categories of attitudes and behavior: media consumption and entertainment, religion and culture, and political orientations. In each case, habits, practices, and values are reported for the eight respondent categories based on age and education that are shown above. Findings are presented in the form of both graphs and tables in order to facilitate interpretation.

Media Consumption and Entertainment. Tables 1 and 2 show patterns of newspaper readership, giving information about both frequency and language. These tables refer only to newspapers published in Morocco. Table 3 reports on television viewing habits, focusing on the source of programs that are watched most frequently. Table 4 gives information about attitudes toward popular Western music.

Nor surprisingly, Tables 1 and 2 show that regular newspaper readership is much more common among those Moroccans of either age cohort who are better educated. This applies to both Arabic-language and French-language newspapers. In addition, however, the tables also show that regular newspaper readership is significantly less common among younger individuals, again for newspapers in both Arabic and French. One possible explanation for the latter finding is that the younger generation is less interested in public affairs. Indeed, the preceding discussion suggests that apathy and alienation have been one response to present-day challenges in Morocco. Alternatively, it is possible that younger men and women are simply more inclined to rely on broadcast media for news and information.

Tables 1 and 2 also reveal a generational difference with respect to the language of the newspapers read most frequently. Whereas older university graduates are more likely to read Arabic-language newspapers, comparably educated younger men and women are more likely to read newspapers published in French.

Table 3 shows that most Moroccans watch at least some foreign television programs, although less well educated members of both the younger and older generations are disproportionately likely to watch only programs that originate in Morocco. Differences between younger and older individuals are not large at any given level of education. On the other hand, among persons with more than a primary school education, it is the case both that almost all members of the younger generation watch foreign television programs regularly and that the proportion who do so is consistently higher than among comparably educated members of older generations.

Table 4 shows that appreciation of popular Western music increases in direct proportion to education among younger individuals, and also that it is more common at all educations levels among members of the younger generation. Accordingly, the greatest generational difference in appreciation of Western music is among well-educated men and women, and it is within the younger generation that attitudes toward Western music differ most significantly as a function of education. The interview schedule also asked about the appreciation of classical Arab and popular Arab music, and not surprisingly most (though not all) respondents liked these as well. Respondents were not asked which type of music they liked most.

Taken together, these findings point to two general conclusions about the emerging political generation. First, its members are on balance more strongly oriented toward European language, media, and cultural forms than are the members of preceding generations. This is especially true of younger men and women with a university education. They are more likely to read newspapers in French than in Arabic, almost all watch foreign television programs regularly, and a majority likes Western popular music.

This is not to say that well-educated younger Moroccans are uninterested in things closer to home. For the most part, the newspapers they read are Moroccan; most watch Moroccan as well as foreign television programs regularly; and, as noted, most like Arab and Moroccan music as well as Western music. But it is clear that these latter tastes and habits do not tell the whole story. Rather, the best-educated members of the younger generation are also interested and involved in the world outside Morocco. Moreover, although the magnitude of intergenerational differences is not great, they are at least somewhat more inclined in this direction than are comparably well-educated older Moroccans.

Second, there is substantial variation within the younger generation with respect to patterns of media and entertainment. The difference between the best and the least well educated members of this generation is particularly noticeable. The gap in newspaper readership is clear, although this applies to older as well as younger individuals. The gap in television viewing and attitudes toward Western music is much more pronounced among younger Moroccans, however. Younger individuals with only a primary school education are much less likely to watch foreign television programs, and relatively few of them like Western popular music even somewhat. The least well educated members of the younger generation thus stand out as much less involved or interested in the world of Europe than are the most well educated members of the same age cohort. Accordingly, Morocco’s emerging political generation is likely to reinforce, and quite possibly intensify, the existing cultural and linguistic differences associated with varying levels of education.

Gender Differences. Before concluding, it may be noted that a separate set of comparisons was undertaken with gender added to the analysis. Specifically, younger men were compared to older men in each of the four education categories, and younger women were similarly compared to older women in each category based on education. Tables showing these comparisons are not presented, however, since in most cases intergenerational differences are similar for men and women. Both among men analyzed separately and among women analyzed separately, the findings closely resemble those presented in Tables 1-12 for the sample as a whole.

There are two exceptions, or partial exceptions, reflecting instances in which intergenerational differences do vary by gender to a significant degree. First, the tendency of younger individuals to appreciate Western music, shown in Table 4, is much more pronounced among men than among women, especially for those who are less well educated. Younger women with less than a secondary school education very rarely like Western music a great deal or even somewhat. Second, while younger and older individuals tend to have similar attitudes toward women working outside the home, as shown in Table 7, there is a generational difference among women in three of the four education categories: primary, post-primary, and university. In each of these categories, and especially among less well-educated individuals, younger women are less likely than older women to approve of women working outside the home.

These findings do not require any significant modification of the conclusions to be drawn from Tables 1-12. The do suggest, however, that in at least some instances the normative gap between better and less well-educated members of the younger generation is greater among women than it is among men.


Attitudes and behavior patterns are not unchanging. The may evolve in response to individual maturation or new environmental stimuli. Thus, it is not known whether the current orientations of older men and women are the same ones that these individuals held when they were younger. Nor is it possible to know the degree to which the orientations presently held by younger men and women will change as these individuals mature and acquire additional life experience. The findings reported in the present study must therefore be interpreted with caution. It for this reason, as stated in the introduction, that the goals of this study are to provide a preliminary account of Morocco’s next political generation and to stimulate additional inquiry and investigation. At the same time, the present analysis rests on an unusually strong empirical foundation and offers valuable and heretofore unavailable baseline data with which findings from future research can be compared.

Against this background and with appropriate caution, three interrelated conclusions may be drawn from the data that have been presented. First, normative and behavioral differences between the age cohorts compared to shed light on generational change turn out, in most instances, to be of limited magnitude. Perhaps this should not be surprising, since older as well as younger Moroccans have been marked by the historical events and present-day circumstances summarized earlier. In any event, to the extent that change is taking place, it will be of an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary nature.

Second, this is not to say there are no discernable or interesting differences between older and younger Moroccans. Moreover, these differences, when they exist, consistently involve lesser attachments to tradition and greater receptivity to non-indigenous normative and behavioral patterns on the part of the younger generation. This is seen in television viewing habits, language preference in newspaper readership, a taste for Western music, prayer, and attitudes toward democracy.

Third, there are numerous attitudinal and behavioral difference associated with education, and these differences are as pronounced among younger men and women as they are among older individuals, sometimes more so. Morocco, like other countries in North Africa and the Arab East, has long been characterized by a significant normative gap between better educated and less well educated citizens. The data presented in this paper suggest that this gap will not be narrowed appreciably by the emergence of the next political generation. The entry of this generation into the Moroccan mainstream will rather reinforce, and to an extent perhaps even intensify, the cleavages associated with differing levels of education.

The preceding suggests that the emergence of Morocco’s next political generation will involve continuity as much as change, with respect not only to the nature but also to the distribution of habits, practices, preferences, and values. Yet the differing educational experiences of younger and older Moroccans suggest that this is not the whole story. The younger age cohort contains hundreds of thousands of men and women with a university education and millions who have completed secondary school. Two or three decades ago, by contrast, these numbers were very much lower, being in the tens of thousands for university graduates and no more than several hundred thousand for secondary school graduates. This is partly a result of the larger size of the emerging generation, but it is also a consequence of the expansion and to some degree democratization of education.

An important implication of the preceding observation is that the values and social codes associated higher levels of education will characterize a much greater segment of society in the future than they have in the past. This includes an interest and involvement in the world outside Morocco, support for non-traditional religious and cultural norms, and a political culture that is civic and participant in character. In contrast to the past, when the well-educated men and women characterized by these orientations represented something of a modern island in a traditional sea, these attitudes and behavior patterns will increasingly characterize a demographic block — well educated younger individuals — of sufficient size to exert broad social and political influence. This can be expected, at one and the same time, both to bring pressure for an evolution of Morocco’s social, cultural, and political ethos and to increase the salience of the gap between individuals with different outlooks and life-styles.

* This paper presents selected sections from “Morocco’s Next Political Generation,” which is forthcoming in Journal of North African Studies. The section most relevant to the conference is that pertaining to media consumption and entertainment, which is included below. Pertinent data are presented in Tables 1-4. Sections not included (indicated by ellipsis) deal with issues of religion, gender, and politics.

In order to put the findings in context, some of the original paper’s introductory sections are also included. So, too, is a short discussion of data and methodology. Finally, although it pertains to the overall analysis, not just findings about media habits and entertainment preferences, the original paper’s concluding section is included as well.


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* * * *

Comments on this paper are welcome via email to the author.

All Rights Reserved. May not be reprinted in any format without permission of the Author.


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