Ten Nation Impressions of America (2002)

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Americans became painfully aware of the gap in understanding between our world and much of the Arab world. Front page headlines and newsmagazine cover stories asked “why do they hate us?’ Pundits and scholars across the ideological spectrum offered answers that ranged from the serious to the silly. Some suggested that the behavior of the attackers was not aberrant, but characteristic of Islam and its followers. They suggested that the West and Islam are not only different, but are inevitably headed toward a clash. Others suggested that “they” hate our democratic values, our superpower status, our wealth, and our people. Still others noted that it was our policy of unquestioning support for Israel, our denial of Palestinian rights, and our collaboration with authoritarian regimes in the Middle East that was behind “their” alienation from “us”.

At the same time, it was striking to see that a similar discussion was taking place in the Middle East. While U.S.-based think tanks have plotted strategies to improve communications with the people of the Middle East, their counterparts in the Arab and Muslim worlds have been engaged in identical discussions designed to enhance U.S. understanding of the Arabs and the religion of Islam.

In all of this, however, little effort has been made to conduct the kind of opinion research that is done in the United States and West in an effort to probe more deeply into the perceptions and worldview of the Arabs and Muslim people. Some polls, some good and some bad, have been taken. Some polling in Lebanon – conducted by Zogby International partner Information International of Beirut in October and November - - reveal some disturbing currents in that nation. Though limited in scope and focused on one country, that poll demonstrated a deep alienation from and lack of empathy with the United States. A massive multi-country poll by the Gallup organization in early 2002 found much the same.

But the Gallup poll has been criticized for promoting and sensationalizing mainly the negative results, for possible pre-poll bias, and for aggregating results in a misleading and inaccurate way. It was in this context that Zogby International launched its own poll of ten countries from March 4 through April 3, 2002

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