July 22, 2019 | By Bettina Hammer

Little Admiration for the United States among MENA Publics

Most Americans believe that respect and admiration for the United States are instrumental in achieving U.S. foreign policy goals. In the 2018 Chicago Council Survey, nine in ten Americans (88%) said respect for the United States matters a great deal or a fair amount and 73 percent believed that it is more important for the United States to be admired than feared in order to achieve its foreign policy aims.

Given this contemporary public opinion landscape, many Americans may be concerned by some of the BBC News Arabic Survey 2018/2019’s preliminary findings. Conducted by the Arab Barometer research network and BBC News Arabic, it is the most extensive survey conducted in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), reaching more than 25,000 individuals in 10 countries and the Palestinian territories.

Preliminary data, published by the BBC in late June 2019, suggests that publics in the MENA region continue to view the United States unfavorably, consistent with previous Pew Global Attitudes Survey findings. When asked about various world leaders’ Middle East policies, President Trump’s received the lowest approval rating – only 12 percent of respondents report a positive view, compared to 28 percent and 51 percent for Russia’s Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan, respectively. When asked which country poses the greatest threat to stability and national security, people across the region name the United States as the second greatest threat, after Israel and before Iran. Though the specific ranking varies by country, it is significant that the United States and a key ally in the region are considered top two security threats.


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If Americans are right to suspect that respect and admiration matter for achieving U.S. policy, it seems that the United States needs to improve its reputation and standing in the Middle East and North Africa. This, too, would be in line with what the American public wants. In the 2018 Chicago Council Survey, a majority (60%) of Americans named improving America’s standing in the world a very important foreign policy goal.

For more information, see the Arab Barometer website.

 

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The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.

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