Pew: U.S. image largely unimproved in Middle East after 'Arab Spring'
President Barack Obama is scheduled to make a major address Thursday on U.S. policy toward the "Arab Spring" uprisings.
May 17th, 2011
09:37 PM ET

Pew: U.S. image largely unimproved in Middle East after 'Arab Spring'

The United States' image in four Middle Eastern nations and the Palestinian territories largely doesn't appear to have improved during anti-government uprisings that have shaken regimes in the region, a survey from the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project found.

Fewer people in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon view the United States favorably now than in 2010, while small gains were seen in Egypt - where an uprising toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak earlier this year - and the Palestinian territories, according to the survey.

Pew said America's image also dipped in the two other predominantly Muslim nations that were surveyed: Pakistan and Indonesia.

The results of the survey, which was taken between March 21 and April 26, come as U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to deliver on Thursday a highly anticipated address on U.S. policy toward the "Arab Spring" uprisings that have shaken autocratic regimes across North Africa and the Middle East.

It also comes as Obama is urging Israel and the Palestinians to restart negotiations on a two-state solution to their decades-long conflict.

"Many of the concerns that have driven animosity toward the U.S. in recent years are still present - a perception that the U.S. acts unilaterally, opposition to the war on terror, and fears of America as a military threat," a Pew report on the survey said.

Thirteen percent of those surveyed in Jordan had a favorable view of the United States, down from 21% last year. U.S. favorability in Turkey (10%, down from 17%), Pakistan (11%, down from 17%), Indonesia (54%, down from 59%) and Lebanon (49%, down from 52%) also saw dips.

U.S. favorability rose in Egypt (20%, up from 17%) and the Palestinian territories (18%, up from 15% in 2009, the last time a survey was done there).

The percentage of people expressing at least some confidence in Obama was up slightly in Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey, but of the nations surveyed, only Indonesia (62%) - where Obama spent some time as a child - had a majority doing so, Pew said.

And majorities in each surveyed nation, expect for Indonesia and Pakistan, said they disapproved how Obama handled calling for political change in the Middle East.

Other findings, according to Pew:

- Most of those surveyed said democracy was preferable to any other kind of government (including more than 70% in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt). The only nation where a majority didn't agree was in Pakistan, where 46% said democracy was preferable.

- Majorities in each surveyed country and territory – except for Egypt, where the questions weren't asked - said economic prosperity, political stability, religious freedom, free elections, free speech and gender equality are very important in a democracy.

- Majorities in Pakistan, Jordan and Egypt believe laws should be based strictly on the teachings of the Quran. This was a minority view in Turkey, Lebanon, Indonesia and the Palestinian territories.

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Filed under: Egypt • Indonesia • Jordan • Lebanon • Pakistan • Palestinians • Politics • Turkey
soundoff (260 Responses)
  1. Buzz

    U.S. Gov Inc. has been sticking its nose into Middle east affairs for over 100 years, covertly, so that the majority of Americans have no idea what their government has been doing "on their behalf. Most notable is the 1953 overthrow of a duly elected government in Iran by the CIA on behalf of BP. Then they installed the Shah, who, of course, was friendly toward western interests, at the expense of his own citizens. We have been killing and kidnapping middle eastern citizens long before the so called war on terror. US Gov were the first terrorists in this "war", and now it's citizens are paying the price. You Arab haters need to catch up on your reading. Sorrows of Empire by Chalmers Johnson, a retired CIA analyst who was "there" would be a good start. Find out what your government is really doing in your name. If you are not saddened and/or angered by the truth he reveals, you have no feelings and are unreachable by rational thought anyway.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  2. Scottish Mama

    When Wilson gave them the weapons in the Reagan years to combat the Russians it was a mistake. We should have let the Russians go and have at it. We should have done solar, wind and any other form of energy besides oil. We were too lazy to think we could change.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Dear Momma,

      We gave them weapons as part of the cold war tatic to break the USSR financially. It worked.



      May 18, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. George Patton

    What on God's green earth makes people think that America deserves to have it's image improved upon in the Middle East? That certainly didn't happen in Europe for Germany when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      Anyway – final conclusion – let's check back after we're finally out of Iraq at the end of the year.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Emmersome Bigguns

    Who cares what the Middle East thinks of us?
    We need to get our own house in order first, then we can worry about our neighbors.

    Let's start by sticking a large enema hose in DC and turning on the water......

    May 18, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jon

    Hrm. Puzzling. 65% in Turkey say they disapprove of how Obama has handled the Arab Spring; I wonder why? Wish this survey had asked about opinions towards Libya in particular... but, hey, there's an even split in Egypt, so that's something. I wonder what people in the polled countries wanted Obama to do *instead* with regards to the Arab Spring?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • ADiff

      Oh well, so much for those Turkish electoral votes....!

      May 18, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  6. V. Clausewitz

    Again, why is it that we need Muslims to like us?

    May 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • ADiff

      None at all.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  7. J Dean

    I must say this a religious war Jews, Muslim, Christian, Not sure who will survive, It seem like Jews beat Muslim then Christian.

    May 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • killallthewhiteman

      Like a modern version of rock paper scissors.

      May 18, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. descarado

    The liberal press peddling this phrase "Arab Spring has become hysterically hilarious. Does anyone truly believe these seventh century woman-stoning neanderthals are going to stray very far from their Islamo-fascists roots. One can never reconcile Islam with universal suffrage, women's rights and Western democracy. America, with the exception of Obama, has nothing in common with people who abuse their woman and wipe themselves with their bare hand.

    May 18, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • ADiff

      Oh come on.....absolutist religious intolerance is so much less objectionable when it's chosen by popular vote, right?

      Uh, you mean it's not? But I thought 51% voting to kill the other 49% was the very HEIGHT of 'good' mean it isn't?

      Imagine that!

      May 18, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Frank Pierce

    Gee. I'm shocked. They still don't like us. They are fighting for their freedom (to open the flood gates of chaos for the muslim brotherhood to take over and work on their islamic super state) because they see how good us free folks got it and because they are becoming courageous enough to protest their (current corrupt oppressive leaders). You know? I'd be just as surprised if someone told me that china, russia, iran, mexico, france, brazil, and liberals really didn't like us either. Shocking!

    May 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  10. killallthewhiteman

    America needs to stop worrying what its image looks like and start pulling triggers.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Bill

    Lets face it the u.s can not exist with out middle east oil. We only produce 20 percent of the oil and import the rest. Why do you think we are only going after oil producing countrys. These countrys good put the u.s out of business if they shut the oil supply off to us.
    This is not a good position for the u.s to be in. We have to find a way to use less energy.

    May 18, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. ADiff

    Oh come on.....absolutist religious intolerance is so much less objectionable when it's chosen by popular vote, right?

    Uh, you mean it's not? But I thought 51% voting to kill the other 49% was the very HEIGHT of 'good' mean it isn't?

    Imagine that!

    May 18, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Sher

    The hate from the Middle East toward America seems to be intensifying. Israel is now being attacked from all sides.
    The Arab spring is definitely not going. well. The Muslim Brotherhood is waiting in the wings....not good at all.

    May 18, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • paperjihad

      ".not going well" Not going well for the US, or not going well for the Arabs?

      May 18, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      Both. But then the Arabs have not been able create any stability in the region in thousands of years, why would we expect them to be able to do it now?

      May 19, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  14. Hasai

    "U.S. image largely unimproved in Middle East...."

    How surprising. Mister Hope-and-Change goes to the ME a few years ago and makes this beautiful speech, then when it comes time to put his money where his mouth is, we find out just how much his pretty little speeches are really worth.

    Seriously, though; is anyone truly surprised?

    May 18, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Down with Arab duplicity

      No group is more two faced than the Arabs. They are their own worst enemies.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  15. Image International, inc.

    If it's your image that worries you, look no further. Even though our failed attempt to make Iran appear to be an better place to occupy than Iraq, the fat lady isn't singing yet. Plus it showed that we can make any occupation of a foreign land in order to procure it's natural resources and trade/pipeline routes(namely to China via Afghanistan and aforementioned 'yet to be occupied') look like an act of God. What? Who says only churches should profit from this.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      This and your subsequent posts are evidence of a confused mind accompanied by a tendency to slobber even when you write. Nothing but tired old left wing or camel jockey propaganda.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
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