Arab Attitudes: 2011

With the 2008 election of Barack Obama, favorable attitudes toward the U.S. more than doubled in many Arab countries. But in the two years since his famous “Cairo speech,” ratings for both the U.S. and the President have spiraled downwards. The President is seen overwhelmingly as failing to meet the expectations set during his speech, and the vast majority of those surveyed disagree with U.S policies.   

In five out of the six countries surveyed, the U.S. was viewed less favorably than Turkey, China, France—or Iran. Far from seeing the U.S. as a leader in the post-Arab Spring environment, the countries surveyed viewed “U.S. interference in the Arab world” as the greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East, second only to the continued Palestinian occupation.

While the vehemence of Arab reaction to the U.S. was startling, the general sentiment echoed points made in AAI President James Zogby’s 2010 book Arab Voices, in which he reflected on Arab opinions of both the U.S. and our foreign policies. “American democracy [seems] a lot like damaged goods to many Arabs… U.S. policy in the region has increasingly undermined Arab attitudes toward America as a global model.”

Executive Summary

• After improving with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, U.S. favorable ratings across the Arab world have plummeted. In most countries they are lower than at the end of the Bush Administration, and lower than Iran's favorable ratings (except in Saudi Arabia).

• The continuing occupation of Palestinian lands and U.S. interference in the Arab world are held to be the greatest obstacles to peace and stability in the Middle East.

• While many Arabs were hopeful that the election of Barack Obama would improve U.S.-Arab relations, that hope has evaporated. Today, President Obama's favorable ratings across the Arab world are 10% or less.

• Obama's performance ratings are lowest on the two issues to which he has devoted the most energy: Palestine and engagement with the Muslim world.

• The U.S. role in establishing a no-fly zone over Libya receives a positive rating only in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, but, as an issue, it is the lowest priority.

• The killing of bin Laden only worsened attitudes toward the U.S.

• A plurality says it is too early to tell whether the Arab Spring will have a positive impact on the region. In Egypt, the mood is mixed. Only in the Gulf States are optimism and satisfaction levels high.

Download the Poll Download the PDF

Related Material: Critics of Polls Disrespect Arab Public Opinion, America in Trouble in the Middle East: Obama Understands, but GOP Gloats

Resources:

Washington Post: Arab World’s view of US, President Obama increasingly negative

Boston Globe: Obama, US viewed less favorably in Arab World, poll shows

Time Magazine: Obama Fails to Budge Arab Opinion

The Economist: What Arabs think of America

Politico: Obama popularity falls in Arab World

NPR: New Poll Finds US Viewed Less Favorably in Arab World

National Journal: Poll: Views of US, Obama Drop Sharply Across Arab World

Salon: US more unpopular in the Arab World than under Bush

Haaretz: Obama’s ratings plummet in Arab World

Al Jazeera:  US standing plunges across Arab world

Mondoweiss: Arab countries see Israeli occupation as greatest threats to Middle East peace (not Iran)

News Max: James Zogby: US Popularity in Arab nations Plummets Under Obama

CNS News: Poll: Obama's Outreach Has Not Improved Arab's Views of the US

AFP: Arab world's ratings of Obama, US plummet: poll

Commentary Magazine: Obama's Popularity in Arab World Now Lower than Bush's

Democratic Underground: Poll: Obama's ratings plummet in Arab World

On CNN w/Wolf Blitzer: