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Americans More Unfavorable Than Favorable Toward Muslim Countries

by David W. Moore

Populations in the United States and the Islamic countries hold mostly negative views of each others' countries


PRINCETON, NJ -- Two recent polls conducted by The Gallup Organization, one conducted in each of nine Islamic countries, and the other conducted in the United States with its partners USA Today and CNN, reveal high levels of negative feelings between Muslims and Americans. With a few exceptions, Americans tend to hold more unfavorable than favorable opinions of the nine Islamic countries that were polled by Gallup, while people in those countries are likely to have similarly negative views of the United States. There are some notable exceptions, with Americans holding net favorable views of three countries -- Turkey, Morocco, and Jordan -- while two countries (Turkey and Lebanon) express net favorable views of the United States. But in four of the Islamic countries, more than six in 10 of its citizens say they have unfavorable opinions of the United States, and in two other Islamic countries, net negative opinion is quite substantial even though not expressed by a majority. Americans tend not to be as negative toward the Muslim countries as the citizens of those countries are toward the United States, but American opinion is heavily negative toward four of the countries and moderately negative toward two others.

A comparison of opinions country-by-country shows that opinions in the United States and in three Islamic countries are roughly comparable (within 10 percentage points), while American opinion is more negative toward two countries than opinion in those countries is toward the United States. On the other hand, opinion in four Islamic countries is significantly more negative toward the United States than American opinion is toward those countries.

The poll in the United States was conducted March 1-3, 2002 and contained many questions that were asked in each of nine Islamic countries during December and January (see the methodology statement at the end of the story for more detail). Overall, the U.S. poll shows that 24% of Americans say they have a favorable opinion of Muslim countries in general, while 41% have an unfavorable view. Another 35% express no opinion one way or the other.

American Opinion of
Muslim Countries in General
March 1-3, 2002

Although Americans tend to be somewhat more negative than positive about Muslim countries in general, there is great variation in opinion about the specific countries. As shown in the following graph, Americans express net favorable views of Turkey, Morocco, and Jordan, but net unfavorable views of the rest of the countries. The range goes from a net favorable of 15 percentage points for Turkey (38% favorable to 23% unfavorable), to a net unfavorable of 62 percentage points for Iran (only 10% favorable and 72% unfavorable). Note also that the percentage of people who give no rating varies from a low of 14% for Iran to a high of 37% for Morocco (only the favorable and unfavorable percentages are plotted below).

American Opinion of
Specific Muslim Countries
March 1-3, 2002

The Gallup poll in nine Islamic countries shows that people in these countries are even more likely to have a negative view of the United States than vice versa. More than six in 10 citizens in each of four of the countries -- Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and Iran -- express unfavorable views of the United States, while two other countries show substantial pluralities with net unfavorable views. Turkey shows the most positive views of the United States (40% favorable to 33% unfavorable), while Lebanon leans slightly more positive than negative (42% favorable to 40% unfavorable). Indonesia leans slightly in the other direction (27% favorable to 30% unfavorable).

Islamic Countries' Opinion of America
December 2001-January 2002

A country-by-country comparison of Muslim and American opinions shows six countries where Americans are more positive toward that country than people in that country are toward the United States, and three countries where the populations are more positive toward the United States than the reverse.

Country Rating Comparisons

The greatest discrepancy in ratings is found between the United States and Pakistan. Both populations express more negative than positive views about the other country, but while the United States is only moderately more negative with a net 17 percentage points unfavorable (48% unfavorable to 31% favorable), Pakistanis are much more negative about the United States by a margin of 64 percentage points (68% unfavorable to 4% favorable).

A large difference is also found between the ratings of Americans and Jordanians, with Americans expressing a net positive opinion of four percentage points (32% favorable to 28% unfavorable), and people in Jordan expressing a large net negative opinion of 40 percentage points (just 22% favorable to 62% unfavorable).

Americans also express a net positive view of Morocco by seven percentage points (28% favorable to 21% unfavorable), although more than half (51%) express no opinion. In Morocco, by contrast, 41% of the residents feel unfavorably toward theUnited States, while just 22% feel favorably. Only 19% express no opinion one way or the other.

In contrast to the previous examples, Americans are more negative about Lebanon than the Lebanese are about theUnited States. Overall, the people in Lebanon give a net positive rating to the United States, by 42% to 40%, while Americans give a net negative rating to Lebanon, by 45% to 17%. Americans are also more negative toward Iran than Iranians are toward the United States. Both populations see the other country in net negative terms, but the Americans express a net unfavorable rating by 72% to 10%, while Iranians express a net negative rating of the United States by a somewhat smaller margin of 63% to 14%.

Survey Methods

Results for the U.S. population are based on telephone interviews with 863 national adults, aged 18+, conducted March 1-3, 2002. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is +/- 4 percentage points.

Results from predominantly Islamic countries are based on in-person interviews conducted in nine countries between December 2001 and January 2002, with the following sample sizes and margins of error:


Sample Size

Margin of Error

























Saudi Arabia



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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