Poll: 81% of Americans cannot identify Arab world on map

Updated 03 May 2017
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Poll: 81% of Americans cannot identify Arab world on map

DUBAI: Most Americans have scant knowledge of the Arab world, with eight in 10 unable to point out the region on a map, a wide-ranging Arab News/YouGov poll has found.
The survey of 2,057 people in the US revealed an alarmingly low level of awareness about the Middle East and North Africa, but also a desire for more media coverage of the region.
More than a fifth of respondents said Agrabah — the fictional city from “Aladdin” — is a real part of the Arab world. An even higher proportion — 38 percent — would be happy with a US travel ban on citizens of Agrabah should they be proven a threat.
The US public’s knowledge gap does, however, extend far beyond Disney fiction.
The “The Arab Image in the US” poll, conducted March 17-21, found that 65 percent of respondents admitted to knowing little about the Arab World, with 30 percent having no interest in understanding the region further.
Over three-quarters of respondents said they would not consider traveling to the Arab world, with 39 percent saying the whole region is too dangerous to visit.
The results of the poll are published today to coincide with the Arab Media Forum (AMF) in Dubai. An Arab News panel discussion on “The Arab Image in the West” will be held today, the second day of the forum, to discuss the media’s role in addressing the region’s perception problem.
This is significant as a low engagement in news about the Arab world was seen as one factor behind the vast gap in Americans’ knowledge exposed by the Arab News/YouGov poll.
Almost eight in 10 of the respondents said they follow international news, but of those only 24 percent tune into news about the Arab world. But half of the respondents said they think US media do not provide sufficient coverage of the region.
Stephan Shakespeare, the chief executive of polling firm YouGov, said the findings are significant and a cause for concern, especially at a time when President Donald Trump is ramping up the US involvement in the Arab world.
“America appears more isolationist since the advent of President Trump and yet at the same time more willing to intervene fast with military action, defying Russia with a surprise attack in Syria,” Shakespeare said.


“Whatever one’s views of these situations, everyone surely hopes for increased understanding between the peoples of the world.”
Shakespeare did, however, point to some “more hopeful” signs from the poll findings.
For example, when it comes to immigration — one of the key talking points during in last year’s US election — the results were generally positive.
The survey found that 63 percent of respondents believe Arab immigrants have made efforts to integrate themselves in US and Western societies.
And Shakespeare also pointed to the desire of US citizens to learn more about the Middle East, something on the agenda at the Arab Media Forum.
“About a third (of respondents said) they would like to see more media coverage about social, cultural and scientific aspects of the region,” Shakespeare wrote. “There appears to be some readiness to consider broader and more positive types of news.”


As tensions mount, Mattis seeks more resilient US ties with China’s military

Updated 28 min 48 sec ago
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As tensions mount, Mattis seeks more resilient US ties with China’s military

  • Making military-to-military ties with China less brittle would be crucial to helping reduce the chances of a devastating conflict — analyst
  • In a recent reminder of the risks amid rising tensions, the Pentagon this month accused China of an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the South China Sea

SINGAPORE: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told his Chinese counterpart on Thursday that the world’s two largest economies needed to deepen high-level ties so as to navigate tension and rein in the risk of inadvertent conflict.
Mattis saw firsthand last month how mounting Sino-US friction can undermine military contacts when Beijing up-ended plans for him to travel to China in October to meet Defense Minister Wei Fenghe.
It was retaliation for recent US sanctions, one of a growing number of flashpoints in relations between Washington and Beijing that include a bitter trade war, Taiwan and China’s increasingly muscular military posture in the South China Sea.
Mattis and Wei made no remarks as they shook hands at the start of their talks on the sidelines of a regional security conference in Singapore. The meeting ended without any public statements.
Randall Schriver, a US assistant secretary of defense who helps guide Pentagon policy in Asia, said Mattis and Wei largely restated differing views on thorny security disputes but agreed on the need for durable ties.
“Both acknowledged that the meeting itself was significant and that high-level communication can help,” Schriver said. “So I think it was productive in that regard.”
Schriver said making military-to-military ties with China less brittle would be crucial to helping reduce the chances of a devastating conflict.
“Two nuclear-armed powers with regional, if not global, interests — we need to make sure that when we step on one another’s toes, it doesn’t escalate into something that would be catastrophic,” Schriver told reporters traveling with Mattis.
Wei has a standing invitation to visit the United States but no date was agreed for his trip, Schriver said.

Managing crises
Military-to-military ties have long been one of the more fragile parts of the overall US-China relationship, with Beijing limiting contacts when tensions run high. That has been a source of major concern for years among US officials, who fear an accidental collision or mishap could quickly escalate.
“What we want in terms of stability are regular interactions at senior levels so we have a good understanding of one another’s intentions, that we have confidence-building measures that will help us prevent an unintended accident or incident,” Schriver said.
“And, should one occur, that we have the ability to manage that, so it doesn’t worsen.”
China has been infuriated by the United States putting sanctions on its military for buying weapons from Russia, and by what Beijing sees as stepped-up US support for self-ruled Taiwan, claimed by China as its sacred territory.
In a recent reminder of the risks amid rising tensions, the Pentagon this month accused China of an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the South China Sea that brought a Chinese ship dangerously close to a US Navy destroyer in international waters.
Mattis, speaking to reporters as he flew to Asia this week, rejected Chinese claims that the United States was acting aggressively and pointed the finger at Beijing.
“When the Chinese ships are putting bumpers over the side ... You don’t do that when you’re out in the middle of the ocean, unless you’re intending to run into something,” Mattis said.
But tensions between the United States and China have already extended well beyond naval maneuvers and even the bitter trade war.
US President Donald Trump last month accused China of seeking to meddle in Nov. 6 congressional elections, a charge almost immediately rejected by Beijing.
Vice President Mike Pence, in what was billed as a major policy address, renewed that and other accusations this month and added that Chinese security agencies had masterminded the “wholesale theft of American technology,” including military blueprints.
The Pentagon’s top concerns have been China’s rapid military modernization and simultaneous creation of military outposts in the South China Sea, a strategic waterway vital for international trade. The Pentagon withdrew an invitation to China to a multinational exercise earlier this year in protest.
China expressed disappointment to Mattis on Thursday over that decision, Schriver said.
“Minister Wei said that he did hope that there’d be future opportunities. And if the relationship progresses that way, I’m sure we’ll entertain it,” Schriver said.
“But we’re not there right now.”