By Karin Zeitvogel (AFP) – Jul 13, 2011
WASHINGTON — Two years after US President Barack Obama called in a groundbreaking speech from Cairo for a "new beginning" in relations with the Muslim world, his popularity among Arabs has nosedived, a poll released Wednesday shows.
An overwhelming majority of more than 4,000 people surveyed in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, told the Arab American Institute that they felt that Obama had not met the expectations he laid out in the June 2009 Cairo speech, the poll found.
Obama called in his Cairo speech for an end to the cycle of "suspicion and discord" between the United States and Muslim world, and outlined a new US blueprint for the Middle East, which included a Palestinian state and efforts to defuse a nuclear showdown with Iran.
But the poll found that Arabs see the Obama administration's handling of key Middle East policy issues as having made no contribution to improving relations between them and the United States.
In fact, the two issues on which the US administration has invested "considerable energy -- the Palestinian issue and engagement with the Muslim world -- receive the lowest approval ratings," the survey found.
Less than nine percent of the people polled said the Obama administration has handled the two key issues well.
The Arab world's image of the US as a whole has also soured to become even less favorable than during the last year of the administration of president George W. Bush, under whom the United States led an international coalition that invaded Iraq, the survey found.
The killing by US Navy SEALs of Osama bin Laden did little to improve Arabs' views of the United States. Majorities in all six countries said they viewed the United States less favorably following the killing of the Al-Qaeda head in Pakistan.
The highest favorability rating the United States got in the survey was from Saudi Arabia, where 30 percent of those polled said they saw the United States in a good light.
The lowest rating came from Egypt -- a mere five percent.
In order to improve relations with the Arab world, the United States should "resolve the Palestinian issue," majorities said in Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.
The Lebanese were split between resolving the Palestinian issue and ending the war in Iraq, while a majority of Saudis thought relations would improve if the United States were successful in stopping Iran's nuclear program.
The survey was commissioned after Obama gave a speech on May 19, backing pro-democracy movements in the Arab world.
A majority of poll respondents in all six countries except the Emirates said the situation in their country had worsened or not changed at all as a result of the Arab uprisings.
In Egypt, where protesters succeeded after weeks of massive demonstrations in ending decades of rule by Hosni Mubarak, 16 percent said things were worse and 35 percent said they noticed no impact at all after the uprising.
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