LONDON: Qatar is losing its battle to win favorable public opinion in the US, with more than a third of Americans linking Doha with accusations of terror financing, an Arab News/YouGov poll has found.
The poll of 2,263 US citizens, conducted in July, suggests that Qatar is “failing miserably” in its effort to convince Americans it is in the right over the row with its Arab neighbors, according to one analyst.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar two months ago, accusing Doha of supporting terror groups and meddling with their internal affairs.
The Arab News/YouGov poll found that 71 percent of Americans are aware, to various extents, of the diplomatic row.
It also found that those who are aware of it have a good understanding of the reasons behind the crisis, with 67 percent correctly identifying the factors behind it.
In the wake of the diplomatic row, the poll found that the US public view Qatar in a negative light.
Just 27 percent of Americans consider Qatar as a friend or ally to the US, while 31 percent consider Qatar to be an enemy of their country. Almost half either don’t know or are unsure about how to classify the relationship with Doha.
Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, said that the data show that Qatar is losing the fight for American public opinion.
“The numbers make a fairly strong case that despite its best efforts, Qatar is failing miserably in attempting to convince Americans that it is in the right,” Shahbandar told Arab News.
“Perhaps Doha would be best served in saving the millions that it will spend in its public relations campaign in the US and instead just do the right thing and agree to meaningful steps that end financial support to terror and extremist incitement.”
Shahbandar added that the poll has helped clarify where Americans stand on the diplomatic rift between Doha and the Anti-Terror Quartet — namely Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain. “Deciding who was the villain and which side stood by principles that coincided with US strategic interests was no easy matter for thought leaders and your average American voter. That said, the recent data from YouGov has helped crystalize just where the American public stands — and the data is damning for the Qatari side,” he said.
Shahbandar pointed to the millions of dollars that Doha spends on lobbying and public relations campaigns in the US — much of which is centered around the US military presence in Qatar.
The Al-Udeid Air Base currently hosts more than 11,000 American soldiers. However, 49 percent of Americans say they are unsure if it is best for the base to remain there, while 20 percent thought that it should be moved somewhere else, according to the Arab News/YouGov poll. Only 31 percent said the base should remain in Qatar.
“The center of the Qatari media strategy is to highlight to the American public the defense cooperation between the two countries — anchored by the presence in Qatar of Al-Udeid Air Base,” Shahbandar said.
“Despite that, 43 percent of Americans are unsure if Qatar is an ally or an enemy of the US. This is a startling find ... that a country which has hosted thousands of American military men and women for over a decade is still unable to garner the goodwill of the American public.”
The poll found that very few US citizens associate Qatar with the 2022 World Cup, with more making the link to the terror financing allegations against Doha.
“What should concern Doha is that of those Americans who were aware of the crisis, a significant amount (two-thirds) of those polled blamed Qatar for initiating the dispute due to support of terror groups,” Shahbandar said.
“The Qatari public relations narrative has attempted to paint the dispute as a result of an effort by the Anti-Terror Quartet Arab states to impose control over Doha’s sovereignty. Nonetheless, that line seems to have fallen on deaf ears amongst a wide swath of Americans.”
• For full report and related articles please visit : YouGov Qatar Poll