A new poll indicates that most Arabs disapprove of President Barack Obama and are discouraged by U.S. policies in the Middle East. The results also show that Arabs think Iran is trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction, but has the right to its nuclear program.
The poll, by the University of Maryland and Zogby International, examines public opinion on issues pertinent to Arabs in the Middle East. It has been conducted annually for the last few years in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It does not distinguish the results in each country.
Although Arab attitudes toward the United States remain unfavorable, 20 percent of those polled identified U.S. attitudes toward Islam as the policy issue they are most pleased with.
Last year, President Obama's approval rating was high as Arabs were hopeful about his Middle East policies. But this year about two-thirds said they are dissatisfied with the president.
Ken Pollack is a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
"There are a lot of Arabs who are frustrated with the Obama Administration's apparent inactivity on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process - that there's a frustration that the president came in, promising to make a major push on peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and that the Arabs feel he has not lived up to that commitment," says Pollack.
University of Maryland Professor Shibley Telhami headed up the poll. He says there's another issue.
"And 27 percent name Iraq, which they are a little bit unhappy with now because of the instability and lack of government," Telhami said. "They are still, I think, pleased with the fact the US is pulling out of Iraq. All the polls show that Arab public opinion wants to see American forces out of Iraq."
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains the most disappointing issue for Arabs. Most said they would accept a two-state solution based on borders before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. However, many believe Israel will not accept that.
The majority of those polled continue to believe Iran is trying to get weapons of mass destruction. But now Arabs believe Iran has the right to its nuclear program and should not be pressured to stop it. More than half say a nuclear-armed Iran would be more positive for the Middle East. Telhami says Arabs do not think Iran would actually use the weapons. He says the Arab reaction reflects anger toward U.S. policies.
"When they're optimistic about American foreign policy, they are much tougher on Iran," Telhami adds. "So a year ago, in 2009, when you had a majority being optimistic about American policy in the Middle East, only 29 percent said Iran having nuclear weapons would be positive for the Middle East. This year, when you have two-thirds being pessimistic about American foreign policy, you have a larger percentage saying maybe it will be better if Iran has nuclear weapons."
The survey also looked at Internet use and television watching habits. Internet use continued to expand.
Most people said they watch several television news sources, with Al Jazeera as their first choice. More than half said they watch American and European movies and music videos almost daily.