America and the Middle East:

The Role of Public Opinion

May 15, 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008

16:00 PM

Thursday,May 15, 2008

18:00 PM


On May 15, 2008, The Brookings Doha Center (BDC), a project of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, hosted Dr. Shibley Telhami, Saban Center Nonresident Senior Fellow and Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, for the first in-house BDC policy luncheon. The discussion focused on Dr. Telhami’s latest academic polling on public attitudes in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Dr. Telhami addressed an attentive audience which included diplomats, media representatives and academics. He presented his extensive 2008 Arab Public Opinion Poll which focused on several policy areas; including the war in Iraq, views of Al Qaeda, Iran’s nuclear program, the Arab – Israeli conflict, views of Israel, Palestinian domestic politics, Lebanese politics, attitudes towards the U.S., global powers and leaders, as well as media viewership.

One of the key findings of the survey illustrated that 83% of the Arab public have an unfavorable view of the U.S. and 70% express no confidence in the U.S. Still, Arabs continue to rank the U.S. among the top countries with freedom and democracy for their own people.

On the war on Iraq, over 61% of the Arabs polled believe that if the U.S. were to withdraw from Iraq, Iraqis will find a way to bridge their differences, and only 15% believe the civil war would expand.

The poll showed there was an increase in the expressed importance of the Palestinian issue, with 86% of the public identifying it as being at least among the top three issues to them.

Dr. Telhami concluded his presentation by exploring Arab opinion on media viewership.

The survey showed that Al-Jazeera continues to command the largest share of the Arabic news market, with 53% of Arabs polled identifying it as their first choice for news.

Brookings Doha Center Director Hady Amr provided introductory remarks and moderated several questions from the audience following the presentation.


Shibley Telhami
nonresident senior fellow in the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, as well as the Center for Middle East Policy, and the Foreign Policy program at Brookings