DOHA: A new Arab Opinion Index surveying the attitudes of Arabs towards the United States has found that the nation is largely disliked in the region.
Conducted by Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS) based in Doha and revealed at the three-day conference discussing the past, present and future of Arab-US Relations, the survey found that 50 percent of respondents had negative views about the United States, 26 percent saw it in a positive light, while 24 percent had no view.
The positive attitudes about the US were concentrated in mostly the GCC countries while the negative attitudes where mostly present in Iraq, Palestine, Yemen and Egypt.
The respondents’ reasons for disliking the US included its support for Israel, backing of corrupt and tyrannical regimes, intervention in domestic affairs of Arab countries, being an occupying power in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan and a feeling that the US was opposed to Islam and Muslims. While those who looked at the US positively said they believed it was a democratic country which respects human rights, that it fights extremism and terrorism. Others were impressed by Americas’ economic and political power. Interesting about the survey was the finding that despite a negative opinion about the US, it was the favourite destination for education, medical care, work and emigration. When given a chance to choose between the US and other countries like Russia for travel, the overwhelming majority of Arabs said they would go to US.
Arab respondents were also asked about their attitudes towards democracy. Most mentioned that regardless of its flaws, the democratic system of government is preferable to other forms.
The survey pooled more than 21,000 respondents across 14 Arab countries.
Respondents were also asked to evaluate American society for a series of values. Most respondents said that the American society suffers from flaws including moral decadence, loose family ties, materialism and widespread crimes. The respondents also equipped that these flaws also prevail in their own societies but to a lesser extent.
The survey found that Arabs relied on the media — television, movies and films — friends and relatives to learn about Americans’ lifestyles.
At the conference, scholars also discussed the shift in policy of the US administration towards Arab countries.
“Economic problems have forced the Obama administration to reduce its spending overseas and explore regions where economic gains could be maximised,” said Mahmoud Hamad of Drake University in Cairo while presenting a paper — “A region long forgotten: The United States and the Arab World”. The Peninsula