WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Approval of U.S. leadership is now similar or lower than what it was in 2008 in several of the Middle East and North African countries Gallup surveyed in 2010, erasing gains seen after the transition from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. Egypt, Syria, and Algeria are the exceptions, though in all cases approval remains relatively low.
Approval is down significantly in 2010 compared with 2009 in 6 of the 10 countries and areas surveyed both years. Egypt, where President Barack Obama gave a 2009 speech reaching out to the Muslim global community, led these declines and Morocco and Algeria also saw double-digit drops. Approval did not decline significantly in Iraq, Yemen, or Syria as the changes are within the margin of error.
Approval of U.S. leadership is highest in Algeria, Iraq, and Libya, although only a minority expresses approval. Approval ratings are among the lowest in the Palestinian Territories, Syria, and Tunisia. In the Palestinian Territories, the increase in approval between 2008 and 2009 was short-lived and approval returned to its 2008 level in 2010 as the Mideast peace process sputtered. It will be interesting to see if approval changes now that peace talks have started again. Approval in Tunisia is now lower than it was in 2009.
While approval has remained low in Syria, disapproval of U.S. leadership, however, has dropped sharply since 2008 (91% vs. 47%), and a significant proportion (39%) now say they don't know, joining the sizable numbers of residents in Egypt and Libya who offer no opinion. It seems that, at least in Syria and in other countries such as Egypt and Libya where sizable numbers of residents don't offer an opinion, many are still making up their minds about U.S. leadership.
Obama's initial efforts to bridge the U.S. and Muslim communities around the world were seen as a hopeful beginning to improved relations. However, the glimmers of improvement seen in 2009 U.S. leadership approval ratings have faded in many of the Middle East and North African countries Gallup surveyed in 2010.
Findings from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia also reveal some countries giving back some of the gains in approval seen from 2008 to 2009. Gallup will continue to monitor the U.S. leadership approval trends as 2010 data from Europe and Latin America become available.
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Results are based on face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in each country for each year reported in this article. For results based on each sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from a low of ±3.3 percentage points to a high of ±4.0 percentage points.