How Much Has The US Image in the Middle East Changed?

September 8, 2011

The past decade has seen lots of opinion polling on attitudes towards the United States around the world and particularly in the Middle East.  This has allowed the public diplomacy community to agonize about what is to be done and now it’s allowing Republicans and Democrats to beat each other over the head about the foreign policies of the Bush and Obama administrations.  Has Obama led to an improvement or a decline in America’s position?

The question that occurs to me though is does anyone have any pre 9/11 polling on perceptions of the US in Middle East countries?

Assessing opinion in 2003 or 2006 or 2009 against attitudes immediately after 9/11 is misleading in that we would expect  9/11 to create an upsurge in approval in the same way that a natural disaster would. The normal expectation in opinion polling is that the impact of single events will ebb over time and that other things being equal underlying sources of opinion will reassert themselves.

Hence a better reference point for changes in the image of the US might be perceptions in the autumn of 2000 rather than of 2001. My hypothesis would be that  the post 9/11 ratings were unsustainably high and that ratings a decade later, as the Bush Administration and the invasion of Iraq recede, are probably in the same ball park to where they had been if anyone had bothered to do the polling then.

If anyone can point to me to any pre 9/11 polling I’m more than ready to be proved wrong





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