Shibley Telhami has released the results of the 2006 round of his surveys (PDF file; done with Zogby International) of public opinion in six Arab countries. He's been doing this with the same six countries for six years now: Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Morocco, and the UAE. Among the major findings:
- Views of the United States haven't improved. 57% say they have very unfavorable views of America and 21% somewhat unfavorable; 8% say somewhat favorable and 4% very favorable. Asked which two countries pose the greatest threat to them,
74% 72% (see below) chose the United States. Bush remains the most disliked world leader, by far - 38% chose him. When asked which country they would prefer to be the single superpower in a unipolar world, 19% chose France, 16% chose China, 14% chose Pakistan (!), 10% chose Germany, and only 8% chose the United States. 7% chose Russia. Only 14% chose the US as one of two countries where people enjoy the most freedom and democracy. Only 9% chose the US as the country other than their own where they would most like to live (France was #1 by far, at 33%). And this is especially troubling to me: I have argued in the past that one indication that Arab attitudes hadn't hardened and could still be influenced was the intense interest in American electoral politics, which suggested that Arabs thought the elections actually mattered and that hated American policies could change. In this poll, 58% think that the Democratic Party's electoral victories in 2006 will make no difference in American policies in the region; only 16% think that it will make a positive difference.
- The anti-Shia hysteria might be exaggerated. Only 11% (see below)
6%chose Iran as one of the two biggest threats to their country, despite months of anti-Iranian agitation in much of the Arab media and a concerted American effort to midwife a 'coalition of moderate Sunnis' against Iran. Hezbollah's very Shia leader Hassan Nasrallah remains the most admired world leader, despite all the talk of Hezbollah's plunging popularity, and Mahmoud Ahmednejad is #3 (Chirac is #2). Nasrallah is #1 in every Arab country surveyed (Lebanese couldn't choose him) except one: Saudi Arabia. That's pretty interesting, and fits with the general sense of the Saudi origins of much of the current anti-Shia hysteria.
- Iraq: No surprises here. 87% think that Iraqis are worse off now than they were before the US invaded Iraq. 81% think the war made the region less peaceful, 80% think that it increased terrorism, and 69% think that it made the region less democratic.
- Islamism: 45% said that "Muslim" was the most important aspect of their identity, compared to 29% who said "citizen of my country" and 20% who said "Arab." I don't have the earlier studies at hand, but that seems a lot higher "Muslim" than before - which would be another data point in favor of the argument that al-Qaeda is succeeding at the level of spreading its basic worldview, even as only 7% say that they agree with al-Qaeda's goal of creating an Islamic state and only 11% support its methods.
- Al-Jazeera still rules the Arab media. Asked which network's news broadcasts they watched most often for international news, 54% said al-Jazeera. Various Egyptian networks were next at 12%, the Saudi MBC got 11%, and only 5% said al-Arabiya, offering scant support for claims that the two stations are close rivals across the region. Saudi Arabia is the only market in which al-Jazeera is not the leader: the Saudi MBC places first there at 30%, then al-Jazeera at 24%, then al-Arabiya at 11%. In the other five countries, al-Jazeera finishes first, with more than 50% and an average advantage of over 45 percentage points in four of the six countries (62% in Egypt and 64% in Jordan) . 1% said the American al-Hurra, which might actually be an improvement.
There's a lot more detail, but it's late.
UPDATE: the Anwar Sadat Center, under whose auspices Shibley Telhami conducts these surveys, has contacted me to let me know that they made an error in their preliminary calculations on the question "which two countries pose the greatest threat". The correct figure for the United States is 72%, not 74%; and the correct figure for Iran is 11%, not 6%. (Israel is #1 at 85% in the corrected calcuations).
UPDATE 2: thanks to MSK in comments, here are the trend-lines on the question about the choice of "Muslim" as the most important aspect of identity: 2004: 24% Muslim / 41% Citizen, 2005: 32% vs. 45%, 2006: 45% vs. 29%. That's a 21% percentage point increase in two years, and near-reversal of the ratio between Muslim/Citizen. I didn't mean to imply, as one commenter complained, that prioritizing Islamic identity necessarily means "al-Qaeda" (hopefully I've written enough about the variety of Islamic activism over the years to put that into context), but highlighting the Islamic aspect of identity and placing that identity in confrontation with the West is explicitly a key part of al-Qaeda's strategy and this trend suggests that it's happening.