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New Polls Show Increased Arab Anger Over US Policies - 2004-07-23

Two opinion surveys, conducted in six Arab countries in June, show a steady drop in Arab apprvoal of American policies and values. The surveys mirror concerns raised by a bipartisan report on the 2001 terrorist attacks over the loss of support for U.S. policies around the world. The survey lists the U.S. war in Iraq as a major irritant, even more than the plight of the Palestinians.

Polling analyst James Zogby says the survey his organization commissioned leaves little doubt that what angers Arabs most is U.S. policy toward Iraq and U.S. attitudes toward Arabs in general, especially since the 2001 terrorist attacks. "First thing that comes to mind when you think about America? It's not American cars," he said. "It's not American television programs. It's unfair policy. It's how you treat Arabs or that you're killing Arabs."

Mr. Zogby says the response to questions about how to improve the U.S. image was unanimous.

"What's the best thing that comes to mind about America," said James Zogby. "Most disturbing for those of us who are Americans, in many of the Arab countries, people said nothing comes to mind. When you said what's the worst thing, again the policy issues dominate. And when you say what should Americans do to change the image in the Arab world, it's change your policy."

Mr. Zogby says the results of the survey show the positive Arab attitude toward American policy has declined steadily in the past two years to nearly zero in some countries.

Mr. Zogby is president of the Arab-American Institute, which commissioned the survey as part of a series of polls that have been tracking attitudes toward the United States since it launched the war on terrorism in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

A companion survey commissioned by Professor Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland comes up with similar results. Mr. Telhami says the rise in anti-Americanism among Arabs is also reflected in answers to questions about the most popular leaders.

When asked to name the most admired leader, Arab nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser was the first choice, followed by French President Jacques Chirac. Ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein came in a distant third.

"What's in common here," said Shibley Telhami. "Well, there really isn't much in common here except for one thing: people who seemed to have defied the United States of America. This is the only thing in common."

Another question asked poll respondents to list the least admired leader.

"Ariel Sharon by far is the least admired leader," he said. "And, George Bush by far is the second least admired leader."

Mr. Telhami says the result was not surprising given the overwhelming Arab anger over the U.S. approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The surveys polled more than 3,000 Arab men and women in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.