World

In Mideast, North Africa, Views of Powerful Nations Differ

by Cynthia English

Approval lowest for U.S. and British leadership

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- An analysis of Gallup Poll data collected in 12 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region over the last several years finds people in many of these nations are more likely to approve of the national leadership of Japan, China, France, and Germany than that of the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia. The regional median approval for Japanese leadership is 45%, 41% for Chinese leadership, 38% for French leadership, and 37% for German leadership. In contrast, the regional median approval for leadership in the United States and United Kingdom are 17% and 15%, respectively. The regional median approval for Russia's leadership falls in the middle of the pack, at 27%.

Among the countries garnering lower median approval of their leadership, Gallup finds several noteworthy distinctions. For example, approval of U.S. leadership is highest among Israelis (66%) and the Lebanese (40%), and lowest among respondents in the United Arab Emirates (7%). Approval of Britain's leadership follows a similar pattern, with Israelis and Lebanese respondents giving it higher marks than other populations do. Positive sentiment toward Russian leadership was highest among Iranians (45%) and the Lebanese (39%) and lowest among Israelis (18%), Jordanians (18%), and Turks (21%).

Responses in this region regarding the U.S. and British-led invasion of Iraq may help to explain why approval tends to be lower for the leaderships of the United States and United Kingdom. When Gallup asked citizens of countries in North Africa and the Middle East to rank the extent to which "the ouster of Saddam Hussein's government by U.S. and British forces" is morally justifiable, a regional median of 50% say it cannot be justified at all, while the regional median for those who say it is completely justifiable is only 8%.

With the exception of Israel, majorities in countries throughout this region believe the decision to oust Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq cannot be justified at all. Fifty-five percent of Israelis say the ouster was completely justified, while 12% say the action cannot be justified at all. The country with the second-highest percentage saying the ouster was completely justifiable is Kuwait at 27%. Yemen and Saudi Arabia are the two countries with the highest percentage saying the ouster cannot be justified at all, at 78% in the former and 70% in the latter.

There is variance among countries with higher regional median approval of their leadership, as well. For example, respondents in Iran (56%), Egypt (55%), and Yemen (52%) are the most likely to approve of China's leadership, while only 20% of Israelis do. Approval of Japan's leadership is highest in Iran (61%) and Saudi Arabia (58%) and lowest in Israel (32%), Jordan (32%), and the Palestinian Territory (33%). Unlike other countries asked about, the regional median disapproval and approval of the leadership of both France and Germany are essentially the same, possibly indicating that many people in the Middle East and North Africa region are uncertain about the leadership of these two countries.

Survey Methods

Results from Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territory, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Yemen are based on face-to-face interviews with at least 1,000 respondents aged 15 and older conducted throughout 2005, 2006, and 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points.

Results from Iran are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,300 adults, aged 15 and older conducted in October and November 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. Results from the United Arab Emirates are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,012 adults, aged 15 and older conducted in September 2006. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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