Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Obama's Popularity Down in US but Even Worse Among Arabs

President Obama's popularity has declined sharply this year in the US and he's always been unpopular in Israel, but his numbers have plunged the most in the Middle East.

President Barack Obama, who promised "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world" in a landmark speech in Cairo a little over a year ago, now finds his – and America's – image in the Middle East right where it's been for decades: mired in distrust.

Commentators in the US often say Obama is an opponent of Israel, and polls in the Jewish state itself show he's deeply distrusted there (60 percent of Israelis polled this spring said Obama was "seeking to improve relations with Arab states at the expense of Israel"). The polls show, however, that his sharpest loss in popularity has been in the Arab World.

The Bookings Institution's annual poll of Arabic opinion, released last week, shows that Obama's approval rating has plunged in the region over the past year faster and further than anywhere else.

Overwhelmingly people in the Middle East reported frustrated perceptions that the US and President Obama exhibit favoritism toward Israel. It is widely believed that the US is either incapable of or unwilling to break the Israel-Palestine deadlock.

In the US, Obama's "favorable rating" has plunged from about 70 percent at the time of his election to about 44 percent today, according to's aggregate of major US polls. But the standing of the president who was once "the world's darling" has slipped globally as well, and nowhere is that more evident than in the Arab states.

The Cairo speech didn't unleash euphoria in the Middle East, but it did seem to convince the Arab public that they were at least going to see something different. Obama said then, while also staunchly defending Israel's right to exist, that Palestinians "endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop." Since then, settlement growth has continued despite Israel's promises of a temporary freeze.

The Brooking's poll, conducted with Zogby International in late June and early July in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and Jordan found that "positive" views of Obama among Arabs had slipped from 45 percent to 20 percent in the past year, and that his "negatives" had soared from 23 to 62 percent.

Why? Of those polled, 61 percent said they were “most disappointed” by Obama’s Palestine-Israel policy, followed by Iraq at 27 percent and the administration's “attitudes towards Islam” at 5 percent.

The impression in the region is that Obama, who had indicated he was going to get tough on Israel settlement expansion in his Cairo speech and a few times during his first year in office, had defaulted to a US
foreign policy status quo that has long infuriated Arabs and Muslims.

But by and large, the poll tracks with other recent polls and research and the Brookings results point to some significant and uncomfortable realities about the costs of failing to deliver meaningful change. The survey's findings suggest overwhelmingly that it is the administration's failures on the Israeli-Palestinian front which drove the collapse in Arab attitudes towards Obama.

For now, one could argue that overall views of the US are only marginally improved from the Bush Administration, if at all. While 64 percent had “very unfavorable” views of the US in 2008 and only 48 percent do so today, most of those opinions have moved into the “somewhat unfavorable” column (38 percent now against 19 percent in 2008). Fewer Arab’s have a “somewhat” or “very” favorable views of the US now than they did in 2008 (12 percent view the US favorably now against 15 percent then).

Something New

If you look to the right you will see a new page:
Generic Congressional Ballot
I have added it so we can keep a watch on the current polling and voters opinion trends. It is from "Rassmusen Reports" which I have found to be one of the best general polling services out there.

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