WASHINGTON – A new poll of Arab public opinion finds a significant drop in Arab world views of US President Barack Obama from a year ago. More than half of the respondents said they were displeased with Obama's policy.
The 2010 Arab Public Opinion poll will be released Thursday at the Brookings Institution by Shibley Telhami, of the University of Maryland and Brookings’ Saban Center for Middle East Policy. The annual survey, conducted in conjunction with Zogby International, polled 3,976 people in six countries — Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates — in June and July.
It appears that Obama's famous speech in Cairo, in which he called for a "new beginning between the United States and Muslims" did not make a lasting impression on the Arab world.
According to the POLITICO blog, the most striking finding is that while early in the Obama administration, in April and May 2009, some 51% of those polled expressed optimism about American policy in the Middle East; in the 2010 poll, only 16% were hopeful, while a majority, 64%, was discouraged.
"The data leaves little doubt that the deciding factor in the shift of opinion toward the Obama administration is disappointment on the Israeli-Palestinian issue," Telhami said.
George Washington University Middle East specialist and ForeignPolicy.com writer Marc Lynch said, "Basically, Arabs have concluded that he can't deliver on his promises at best, or that he's just like Bush at worst. But there's still considerable residual hope at this point that they're wrong and that he'll come through in the end."
POLITICO said other key findings are that views on the Arab-Israeli conflict and its prospects for resolution have remained stable, and that a slight majority of the Arab public now sees a nuclear-armed Iran as being better for the Middle East.
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