Public Opinion Of US At All Time Low
From the Arab Voice
March 24, 2003
Across the Arab world, public opinion of the United States has
reached a dangerous level, according to a new survey by The Arab
American Institute and Zogby International.
The March 2003 survey was based on interviews with 2,600 persons
in different Arab countries, some of them the United States
strongest allies in the Middle East: Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi
Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
An earlier poll released by the same institutions in March 2002
showed that favorable ratings of the U.S. were very low and that
the factor that drove these negative opinions was the unbalanced
U.S. policy toward the Palestinians. It appears that this year's
poll results have been affected as well by the American unilateral
approach toward Iraq.
The most significant drops in opinion about the United States occurred
in Morocco and Jordan. In 2002, for example, 34 percent of Jordanians
had a positive view of the United States, as compared to 61 percent
who had a negative view. In 2003, only 10 percent of Jordanians,
now hold a positive view of the United States, while 81 percent
hold a negative one. Similarly, in Morocco, the favorable/unfavorable
ratings towards the United States in 2002 were 38 percent to 61
percent. Today they are 9 percent favorable and 88 percent unfavorable.
The U.S. favorable/unfavorable ratings were already quite low in
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They have remained
In 2002, the ratings in Egypt were 15 percent favorable to 76 percent
unfavorable. In 2003, Egyptians' ratings of the United States are
13 percent favorable and 80 percent unfavorable.
In Saudi Arabia, 12 percent viewed the United States favorably
and 87 percent unfavorably in 2002. Today, 3 percent see it favorably
and 97 percent unfavorably.
In the United Arab Emirates, the ratio showed almost no change
from an 11 percent favorable/87 percent unfavorable in 2002 to 11
percent favorable and 85 percent unfavorable in 2003.
In all five countries, US policy toward Iraq received only single
digit favorable ratings, while nine respondents out of ten oppose
current US policy toward Iraq. These numbers do not mean that these
countries support the Iraqi regime since the majorities in three
of the five countries indicated that they wanted to see the regime
in Baghdad disarmed of all weapons of mass destruction.
An answer to the question do you agree or disagree that the
government of Iraq should fully comply with UN weapons inspectors?
Fifty-two percent of all people in the Arab Emirates agreed, while
only 34 percent disagreed. In Egypt, 51 percent agreed while 41
percent disagreed. A majority of Moroccans agreed that Baghdad should
cooperate. And only in Jordan and Saudi Arabia did slightly less
than one in four agree, while two-thirds disagreed.
It is important to note that Arabs in all of these countries do
not support the United States' acting independently to disarm Iraq.
When asked, If Iraq does not comply with UN inspectors, or
if the UN finds that Iraq has been hiding weapons of mass destruction,
would you support or oppose United States independent military action
to make Iraq comply? the number of those responding positively
were quite low: 14 percent in Egypt, 9 percent in UAE, 8 percent
in Jordan, 3 percent in Saudi Arabia, and 1 percent in Morocco.
However, when asked if they would approve of a UN-endorsed effort
to disarm Iraq, should the regime fail to comply, the percentages
increased: 32 percent in UAE, 29 percent in Egypt, 18 percent in
Saudi Arabia, 16 percent in Morocco, and 10 percent in Jordan.
What should be most disturbing to U.S. policy makers is the lack
of confidence in and goodwill toward U.S. policy that this survey
demonstrated. For example, the 2002 poll included a number of what
are called experimental questions. For example: If
the U.S. were to apply pressure to ensure the creation of an independent
Palestinian state, would that make you more favorable, less favorable
or make no difference in your attitude towards\ the United States?
In almost all cases, in 2002, about 80 percent of all Arab respondents
indicated that this change in policy would make them more favorably
inclined towards the United States. However, the current survey
did not show such a response. Only in the United Arab Emirates did
a majority indicate that their attitude toward the United States
would improve if the US were to apply pressure to guarantee
the creation of a Palestinian state. In Jordan, only 31 percent
said their attitude would improve, and in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and
Morocco those said that their attitudes toward the US would improve
were 27 percent, 26 percent and 15 percent respectively. Almost
7 out of 10 in those countries indicated that their attitude would
It is not clear from the survey why this theoretical change in
U.S. policy now would not create a change in attitudes toward the
United States. One could suggest several possibilities: Simply,
Arab public opinion may no longer trust the U.S. to act in an even
manner to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. After failing to act to
end the crisis of last March and April and siding with Israel's
Ariel Sharon, Arab opinion may have concluded that the United States
simply will not act to bring justice to Palestinians.
The conflict has gone on so long without any positive U.S. action
that even if there were a change in policy, it might be too late
to win Arab support. Finally, it may also be due to the fact that
the U.S. independent approach toward Iraq has done such damage that
even a theoretical change in policy is not enough to refill the
tank of goodwill toward the United States that once existed. In
any case, the American Arab Institute/Zogby International 2003 survey
proves that the United States is walking on dangerous ground in
the Arab world today. It is a fact that has been the subject of
much discussion. But now we have real numbers to support a widely
Translated from Arabic by Elias Saber
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