Trump’s popularity surging in Saudi Arabia: YouGov poll

Updated 01 June 2017

Trump’s popularity surging in Saudi Arabia: YouGov poll

LONDON: Donald Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia significantly boosted support for the US president among residents of the Kingdom, a YouGov poll shows.
More than half of the 507 people questioned said the trip in May improved bilateral ties.
Trump’s visit, during which a raft of business and arms deals was signed, was seen as a hugely significant show of support for Saudi Arabia. It was his first trip abroad since taking office in January.
Around a quarter of residents in the Kingdom questioned by YouGov said the visit positively affected their impression of Trump, compared to 38 percent who said the visit made no difference.
Only 10 percent said the visit had a negative impact on their impression of him, while 29 percent said they did not know or were not sure.
A survey by Arab News and YouGov conducted before the US election found extremely low levels of support for Trump in Saudi Arabia.
The previous poll, dating back to October, found that only 8 percent of people in the Kingdom would have voted for Trump in the US election if given the chance, compared to 41 percent for Hillary Clinton.
But public opinion of Trump in Saudi Arabia has now improved, with 23 percent of those polled in May saying they would vote for him, compared to 22 percent for Clinton, and 55 percent saying they would not vote if given the chance.
The latest poll, conducted on May 25-29, found that 57 percent of residents believe Trump’s visit to the Kingdom has had a positive impact on US-Saudi ties and will strengthen them going forward.
Only 4 percent said it would weaken relations, while 14 percent said it would have “no impact.” A quarter said they did not know or were not sure.
Commenting on the findings, Faisal J. Abbas, editor in chief of Arab News, said: “The results prove what we have always argued, that in politics actions speak louder than words. While Mr. Trump had a bumpy ride with public opinion during the campaign period, his actions when it comes to the Middle East have been incredibly spot on, particularly when he took immediate action when the Syrian regime used chemical weapons.”
Abbas added: “The excellent speech President Trump gave in Riyadh at the Arab-Islamic-American Summit — where he spoke of partnership, of a joint enemy in terrorism that threatens everyone — and his statement that the US is not there to dictate a way of life but to offer a helping hand have done a lot to boost his image in the region, to the extent that people barely remember his pre-election rhetoric.”
Kailash Nagdev, managing director for YouGov in the Middle East and North Africa, agreed that Trump’s visit had clearly boosted public opinion of him in Saudi Arabia.
The visit to the region “is seen as a big step forward in bridging the divide that was created during the divisive presidential campaign,” Nagdev told Arab News.
“The media campaign in Saudi Arabia during and post his visit seems to have worked, improving his overall image.”
Nagdev pointed to a previous Economist/YouGov poll, conducted last week among US residents, which found that 44 percent of Americans consider Saudi Arabia an “ally” or “friendly” toward the US, an improvement on the same study conducted two weeks prior to Trump’s visit.
The latest YouGov poll found that respondents in Saudi Arabia were generally undecided as to what was the most important announcement made during Trump’s visit.
But they ranked the $110 billion US-Saudi arms deals first, followed by the raft of corporate deals signed, and the launch of the global center to combat terrorism.
“Given the economic diversification agenda related to Saudi Vision 2030, US support to these initiatives is considered important,” said Nagdev.
“Hence it is not surprising that the announcements related to the economy were considered most important by 39 percent of residents, while the announcements related to terrorism and on (the) warning to Iran were rated high by 26 percent of residents.”
Arab News, the Middle East’s leading international English-language daily, recently entered an exclusive partnership with the globally acclaimed online polling firm YouGov.
The deal will see YouGov conduct regular polls relating to the Middle East and North Africa, which will help shed light on regional sentiment toward international events, as well as producing credible research on international opinion of Arab affairs.

Saudi pursuit of ‘green Kingdom’ goal gets a boost

Updated 18 November 2019

Saudi pursuit of ‘green Kingdom’ goal gets a boost

  • Agreement between agriculture ministry and Dubai's ICBA aimed at conserving natural resources
  • Kingdom's biosaline agriculture research and systems stands to benefit from ICBA's expertise

DUBAI: Agricultural development and environmental sustainability in Saudi Arabia will receive a boost in the coming years, thanks to a new agreement between the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in Dubai and the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture.

The agreement aims to enable Saudi Arabia to achieve its goal of preservation and sustainable management of its natural resources by raising the quality of biosaline agriculture research and systems.

The ministry says that the agreement will make use of the ICBA’s expertise in capacity development besides agricultural and environmental research, especially in the fields of vegetation development, combating desertification and climate change adaptation.

“It also includes training programs for Saudi technicians and farmers,” the ministry said. “In addition, it will localize, implement and develop biosaline agriculture research and production systems for both crops and forestation, which contributes to environmental and agricultural integration.”

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, the ICBA’s director general, told Arab News: “The agreement had been in the making for about two years. That was when we were approached by the Saudi government.”

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, ICBA Director General, at the center's quinoa fields in Dubai. (Supplied photo)

She said: “We put forward a proposal to demonstrate how the ICBA can help the Saudi government to implement its Green Kingdom Initiative, through which the ministry is trying to restore green coverage in the country and revive old conservation practices.”

Geographical features and climatic conditions very greatly from one part of the country to the other.

In the past, experimentation with such crops as potatoes, wheat and alfalfa proved detrimental to the Kingdom’s environment and natural resources due to faster rates of groundwater withdrawal.

“The ministry wanted to put a halt to over-abstraction of water, so they went through different policies,” Elouafi said.

“They made sure, for example, that farmers stopped producing wheat because about 2,400 liters of water is consumed to produce 1 kg of wheat. It was a huge amount,” she added.

“The new strategy is to find more appropriate crops for the farming community, which is quite large in the Kingdom.”

Saudi Arabia has been trying to grow its own food on a large scale since the 1980s. 

The objective of the Green Kingdom Initiative is to reduce the agricultural sector’s water demand by finding alternatives to thirsty crops.

The agreement will require the ICBA, over the next five years, to build for Saudi Arabia a new biosaline agriculture sector. 

As part of this shift, cultivation of a number of crops, notably quinoa, pearl millet and sorghum, will be piloted in high-salinity regions and then scaled up.

“The crops did very well in the UAE,” Elouafi said. “We’re looking at Sabkha regions, which have very high salinity and wetlands, and are on the ministry’s environmental agenda.”

Another objective is “smart” agriculture, which will involve raising water productivity, controlling irrigation water consumption and changing farming behavior.

Elouafi said that getting farmers in the Kingdom to stop cultivating wheat took some time as they had become accustomed to heavy government subsidies. In 2015, wheat production was phased out, followed by potatoes a year later and then alfalfa. 

“Farmers were provided everything to the point where they got used to a very good income and a very easy system,” she said.

“Now farmers are being asked to start producing something else, but the income won’t be the same, so it’s very important at this stage that the ministry has a plan and it’s fully understood.”

The agreement envisages preparation of proposals for ministry projects that involve plant production, drought monitoring, development of promising local crop and forestation varieties, and conservation of plant genetic resources.

“We’re also discussing capacity building because the ministry is big and has many entities. Because Saudi Arabia is a large country and has the capacity to meet some of its food requirements internally, what’s required is a better understanding of the country’s natural capabilities in terms of production of the crops it needs, like certain cereals,” Elouafi said.

“The way the authorities are going about it right now is more organized and more holistic. They’re trying to plan it properly.”

Elouafi said that having a better understanding of Saudi Arabia’s water constraints and managing the precious resource is essential.


Although almost the entire country is arid, there is rainfall in the north and along the mountain range to the west, especially in the far southwest, which receives monsoon rains in summer.

Sporadic rain may also occur elsewhere. Sometimes it is very heavy, causing serious flooding, including in Riyadh.

“They (the government) are very interested in drought management systems. The Kingdom has a long history of agriculture,” Elouafi said.

“It has large quantities of water in terms of rainfall, and certain regions have mountainous conditions, which are conducive to agriculture.”

Clearly, preservation of water resources is a priority for the Saudi government. But no less urgent is the task of conversion of green waste to improve soil quality, increase soil productivity and water retention, and reduce demand for irrigation.

The Kingdom is one of at least three Gulf Cooperation Council countries that are taking steps to develop a regulatory framework for the recycling of waste into compost.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman are respectively aiming to recycle 85 percent, 75 percent and 60 percent of their municipal solid waste over the next decade, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) entitled “Global Food Trends to 2030.”

Saudi Arabia and the UAE rank in the bottom quartile of the 34 countries covered by the EIU’s Food Sustainability Index, with low scores for nutrition and food loss and waste. 

The answer, according to many farmers, policymakers and food-industry experts, is a shift toward more sustainable management of each country’s natural resources.