LOS ANGELES -- Residents in countries in Africa and the Arab Gulf are among the most positive about Muslim-West relations of all 48 majority-Muslim and Western countries Gallup surveyed for its inaugural Muslim-West Perceptions Index (MWPI).
These results are among the top findings highlighted in a new report released Wednesday by the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, Gallup Muslim-West Perceptions Index: Inaugural Findings. The MWPI measures how populations worldwide view relations between these two societies as a personal priority, in terms of the importance they place on the relationship, and the level of mutual respect they perceive. The higher the index score, the more positive the views of Muslim-West relations.
The report reveals that countries that top the index with scores in the 75th percentile or higher tend to be poor, have low literacy rates, and a high reliance on the West for financial assistance. Less than one-quarter of the people in these predominantly West African countries have attended secondary school or gone to college, and almost two-thirds of them say they are finding it "difficult" or "very difficult" to get by on their present income.
An interesting note in light of the Arab Spring is Tunisia's index score of 75. During the 2010 pilot study, Tunisia's index score was 63, resembling its North African neighbors. In 2011, Tunisia's score jumped 12 index points. This suggests that Tunisia's successful peaceful revolution and transition may have had a positive effect on the public perception of Muslim-West relations.
The rich Arab Gulf countries of Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates narrowly miss making the top quartile, with scores ranging from 69 to 74. Relatively high scores in these countries show that positive views are also possible among publics that look to the West as a trade partner, rather than a source of aid.
Religious Devotion No Impediment to Muslims' Positivity
Although religiosity is often cast as a barrier to Muslim-West relations, the report also shows that it does not seem to be one for the six African majority-Muslim countries that top the index. Nearly all residents (95%) in the most positive group say religion is important.
In general, those in majority-Muslim countries who say religion is important rank higher on the MWPI than those in majority-Muslim countries who say religion is not important. In the West, this is reversed, with people who see religion as important ranking lower on the MWPI, and people who do not see religion as important occupying a higher position.
Religion isn't the only thing that many incorrectly assume has a negative effect on views of Muslim-West relations. Also falling into this category are corruption, a country's per-capita GDP, the perceived effectiveness of a government, and people's views of their government's use of violence against civilians. In a changing world in which some unpopular regimes have had the support of Western powers, these factors might be expected to seep into people's worldviews and sour them on the West. Rather, Gallup has found no correlation between these perceptions and where countries fall on the MWPI.
To improve Muslim-West relations, Gallup's analysis suggests that leaders must take a multifaceted approach, ranging from supporting successful transitions to democracy in places such as Tunisia and Egypt, to fostering stronger economic partnerships among the U.S., Europe, and majority-Muslim societies.
For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact SocialandEconomicAnalysis@gallup.com or call 202.715.3030.
Results are based on face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults per country, aged 15 and older, conducted from 2007 to 2011. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from a low of ±2 percentage points to a high of ±4.3 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. 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.
The Gallup Muslim-West Perceptions Index is a measure of how people in different countries view relations between Muslim and Western societies. The concepts measured in the index focus on the importance of the relationship, respect, and nature of the relationship. The index includes the following questions:
- Is it very important to you for Muslim societies and Western societies to get along, or is this something that is not very important to you?
- Do you believe Muslim societies respect Western societies, or do you believe Muslim societies do not respect Western societies?
- Do you believe Western societies respect Muslim societies, or do you believe Western societies do not respect Muslim societies?
- Do you believe that greater interaction between Muslim and Western societies is more of a threat or more of a benefit?
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.