News / Middle East

Arabs Have Negative View of United States

Recent poll shows most Arabs hold strongly unfavorable views of US policy in Middle East

A new poll of the Mideast finds that 63 percent of respondents hold unfavorable views of the United States.
A new poll of the Mideast finds that 63 percent of respondents hold unfavorable views of the United States.


Mohamed Elshinnawi

A recent poll of public opinion in the Middle East shows that most Arabs hold strongly negative attitudes toward the United States and U.S. policies in the Middle East.

The annual opinion poll, conducted during July by the University of Maryland and Zogby International, surveyed about 4,000 respondents living in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

Negatives views

It found that 63 percent of respondents hold unfavorable views of the United States.

University of Maryland professor Shibley Telhami, the principle investigator for the survey, notes that just one year ago, more than half of the respondents in a similar Zogby poll were hopeful about American policy in the Middle East.  
This year's survey indicates that only 15 percent of Arab citizens are hopeful. Telhami says the survey also reveals that President Barack Obama's disapproval rating among Arabs shot up from 23 percent in 2009 to 62 percent last month.

"They are frustrated because the settlement issue which the president raised early resulted only in a partial settlement freeze, not a full settlement freeze," says Telhami. "They are frustrated because so far the negotiations have been not really tackling the core final status issues in the way that the public expected, and I think that if an agreement is reached, public opinion will completely be transformed."

Public opinion of President Obama has dropped in the Arab world.
Public opinion of President Obama has dropped in the Arab world.


The Zogby International poll found 61 percent of the Arab public consider the Israeli-Palestinian conflict their greatest disappointment, while 27 percent cite Iraq.  

Despite Arab pessimism about an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, 86 percent of those surveyed said they are prepared to accept a two-state solution based on 1967 borders. But the number of Arabs who believe that Israel will never accept such a solution has increased from 45 percent in 2009 to 56 percent this year.

Kenneth Pollack, director of the Saban Center for Middle East policy at the Brookings Institution, believes growing Arab mistrust of the U.S. and of President Obama is due to the gap between his promises over the past year and his actual handling of the Palestinian - Israeli conflict.

"One of the obvious things that the president could do is to make a much bigger effort to try to mediate between Israelis and Palestinians, to try to bring them together, to try to push on both sides, to try to find ways to bridge differences and get a real peace process moving," says Pollack.

He believes the incremental approach Mr. Obama has pursued over the past year is not moving the peace process forward as quickly as Arabs in the region would like.

Nuclear Iran

Another significant change in this year's Mideast opinion survey is that 77 percent of Arabs now believe Iran should have the right to develop its nuclear capabilities and should not be pressured to stop its program.

"They do not see Iran as the biggest threat and they are more worried about Israel and about American foreign policy when you ask them to name the two countries that are the most threatening to you," says Telhami. "So Iran is evaluated in the context of the two bigger threats. When they are optimistic about our American foreign policy they are much tougher on Iran."

Telhami says 20 percent of the Arabs surveyed identify U.S. attitudes toward Islam as the issue about which they are most pleased.

Asked to name which world leader they admire most, respondents for the first time favored Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan.

"Because of his positions supporting Palestinians in Gaza war and after the incident of Gaza flotilla," says Telhami. "For that reason he rises to the top, so all these choices are really a function of who is playing the biggest role on the issues they care most about."

President Obama's name didn't even show up on this year's most-admired leaders list.

More Web use

The University of Maryland/Zogby International poll also looked at media consumption trends among Arabs. The survey found the use of the Internet continues to rise across the region. Forty percent of respondents say they use the web several times a week but the vast majority - 73 percent - visit mainly Arab websites.

The Qatar-based Aljazeera TV channel continues to lead viewers' preferences in the Arab world as the main source for reliable news.

Pollack of the Brookings Institution notes that ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, American policy makers have paid much closer attention to the undercurrents in the Arab world. He believes they understand that the anger and frustration captured in this new poll can have a very real and significant impact on American national security.

But Pollack believes Arab public opinion is just one piece of a complex mix of factors U.S. officials must weigh in formulating America's policy in the region.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs