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United States, China Elicit Different Opinions in Sudan

United States, China Elicit Different Opinions in Sudan

by Magali Rheault

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sudanese public opinion provides a striking mirror that reflects Sudan's dramatically different relations with two of its most important players. A Gallup Poll shows that Sudanese are nearly three times more likely to hold "very unfavorable" opinions of the United States (37%) than of China (14%).

Views of Other Nations

When asked to express the extent of their favorability toward certain nations using a 5-point scale where "1" is "very unfavorable" and "5" is "very favorable," 51% of Sudanese surveyed have an unfavorable opinion of the United States, and 29% of respondents say they have a favorable opinion. But when asked about China, 26% of Sudanese say they have an unfavorable view of China, and 48% express a favorable opinion.

Views of Other People

Although Sudanese surveyed express similar attitudes toward the Chinese as they do toward China, respondents are slightly more predisposed to viewing Americans more positively than the United States.

Using the same 5-point favorability scale where "1" is very unfavorable and "5" is very favorable, 21% of Sudanese say they have an unfavorable opinion of the Chinese people, and 51% of respondents view them favorably. With respect to the people of the United States, 40% of Sudanese surveyed say they view them unfavorably, and 38% say they view Americans favorably.

U.S. engagement in Sudan has focused on a political settlement to secure peace not only in Darfur but also in the country as a whole. Although the United States is a major aid donor to Sudan, Washington has kept Sudan on its list of "state sponsors of terrorism" and has imposed economic sanctions on the country. More recently, U.S.-Sudan talks to normalize relations between the two countries broke down after renewed violence erupted in the oil-rich area of Abyei, a contested zone straddling north and south Sudan.

The Sino-Sudanese relationship, however, mainly revolves around the oil sector (although China has recently stepped up its role in helping resolve the crisis in Darfur after Western organizations repeatedly criticized the country as an enabler of the conflict). China is Sudan's largest trading partner, and it is also the largest foreign investor in the country. Although Sudanese hold favorable views of China and the Chinese, the Gallup Poll also reveals that almost 8 in 10 (79%) respondents say foreign countries take advantage of Sudan's natural resources.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with at least 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in December 2007. The survey excludes the Darfur region and parts of the South (around Juba and Nimule). 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. 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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