Survey Sez

From Holden:

Chimpy’s democracy crusade is not catching on in the Middle East according to a recent survey conducted by the University of Maryland’s (UMD) Peace and Development Studies programme.

…President George W. Bush’s efforts to persuade the Arab world that Washington promotes democratic reform in their countries has made hardly a dent in the views of the vast majority of Arabs, with the exception of Christians in Lebanon, according to the poll’s designer, AAI president, James Zogby.

Besides Lebanon, the survey was carried out in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“In Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the two countries where the U.S. has focused its democracy message, the effort appeared to backfire,” according to Zogby. “Of the four percent in Egypt and nine percent in Saudi Arabia who said that ‘President Bush’s promotion of democracy and reform’ was the most important factor determining their attitudes toward the U.S., over 80 percent said this effort worsened their view of the U.S.”

The survey also found growing pessimism, particularly in Egypt and Jordan, about the “likelihood of peace” in the region compared to 2002, the first year that Zogby International and AAI surveyed public opinion in all six countries.


Asked about the importance they accorded to issues facing their own country, most Arabs expressed greatest concern about employment opportunities, health care, corruption and nepotism, and the educational system, in that order.

By contrast, “combating extremism and terrorism”, “advancing democracy”, “lack of political debate”, and “protecting personal and civil rights” — all issues that the Bush administration has tried to make priorities — were given a lower priority.

“Resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict” which, in the previous AAI survey conducted in the spring of 2004, was the second-ranking concern of Arab respondents, fell to seventh place this year, with the biggest declines recorded in Lebanon and the UAE.


Two out of every three respondents in Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco said their overall opinion of the U.S. was unfavourable. In the UAE, the ratio was three out of every four, while in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, 85 percent and 89 percent of respondents, respectively, expressed negative views.

Despite the rebound in Arab views of the U.S. compared to 2004, majorities ranging from 58 percent (UAE) to 84 percent (Egypt) of respondents said their attitude toward the U.S. had worsened over the past year.

The only country in which a significant percentage (21 percent) said their views of the U.S. had improved was Lebanon, where Washington played a key role in pressing for Syria’s withdrawal after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. But even there, nearly 80 percent said their opinion of the U.S. had either worsened (49 percent) or remained the same (27 percent).


Asked what were the most important factors in determining their attitudes towards the U.S., the most common answer given by respondents in every country except UAE was the war in Iraq, followed by “American treatment of Arabs and Muslims”.

The U.S. role in the Arab-Israeli conflict came in a fairly distant third, although one out of every five Lebanese listed it as the most important factor for them; while “President Bush’s promotion of democracy and reform” was cited by less than one in 10 respondents in every country except Lebanon.