Evolving Views of U.S. Foreign Policy among Arab Citizens

Principal Investigator:
Lindsay J. Bernstead, CPD Research Fellow 2017-19

Contributing Researcher:
Wa'el Nimat

More than 50 surveys are now available from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) which allow scholars to examine Arab public opinion toward foreign governments and peoples. Yet, despite this growing body of data, Arab public opinion toward other countries and peoples has been the subject of only limited research.

To address this gap, this project will critically analyze evolving public opinion in the MENA toward the U.S. and western foreign policy—including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, western interference in internal politics, and trade and foreign investment—and consider its implications for the Arab spring, foreign policy processes, and peace and stability.

The role that regional and international issues played in shaping the Arab spring—and how its aftermath will ultimately re-shape the region’s foreign policy—are new and critical research topics for scholars of public diplomacy. Yet, while existing data on public opinion toward foreign governments and nations—especially the U.S.—is vast, it is under-exploited.

Preliminary analyses show that solidarity with the Palestinians has increased across the Arab world during the past decade. Attitudes toward the United States are often negative, but not monolithic. Perhaps much more than is appreciated by western media and conventional wisdom, positive views toward the west exist among Arab publics. And, anti-western sentiment and support for anti-American actions has increased in some countries, but remained stable or decreased in others. These trends raise critical puzzles for researchers of public diplomacy who seek to explain the profound changes shaping the region and their possible impacts on peace, stability, and security.

Image via iStock.

Flags of Libya, Egypt, Tunisia