New poll claims to show most popular U.S. president among Arab nations – and the least


From left, President Obama and former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas in April 2013. (David J. Phillip/Associated Press)

Zogby Research Services, a polling company that specializes in the Arab world, has a new poll out that looks at perspectives on U.S. leadership in recent years.

One detail in the report caught my eye: this chart that shows how different Arab nations viewed recent U.S. presidents.


(Zogby)

As you can see from this chart, Bill Clinton is viewed by a large number of people across the Arab world as the U.S. president with the most positive relationship with their nation. Perhaps this is obvious: Clinton's personal charm and his public speaking ability made him popular all around the world, and he was deeply involved in the Middle East peace process during his time in office.

On the other hand, you have George W. Bush. As you can see, Bush is viewed as the U.S. president with least positive relationship with the Arab world by large numbers of people in all the countries surveyed. In some countries, Morocco and Jordan, he wins the title by a landslide, with more than 80 percent putting his name down (and it appears that not many in Egypt or Lebanon had anything positive to say about him, either). Given his role in the Iraq war, perhaps this isn't that surprising.

Obama receives a more mixed report than Bush according to Zogby's data, in an apparent reversal from a 2011 poll by Zogby that had Obama getting a lower approval rating in Arab states than Bush.

Our polling team suggested that there may be some problems with the methodology used in the recent poll – the research hasn't taken into account demographics, so we may be seeing results that skew urban or fail to factor in other demographic elements.

But some of the information can be broadly corroborated with other polling: A 2012 Pew poll found that Obama's approval ratings in Arab nations were higher than Bush's were in 2008,  and a 2009 Gallup poll found a leap in approval ratings for U.S. leadership between Bush's term and Obama's. A 2007 poll by Maktoob Research in Dubai found that Hillary Rodham Clinton — who was then a presidential candidate — would have been the most favored U.S. president in the Arab world, largely because of her husband.

"Their assumption is that Hillary will continue where her husband left off in striving for fair and balanced peace in the Middle East," Ahmed Nassef, vice president of the Maktoob Group, said at the time.

Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Originally from London, he studied at the University of Manchester and Columbia University.
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