Arab views on White House race reflect a mood of pessimism
Our poll shows that people in the Arab world are pessimistic about both of the possible outcomes of the American presidential election. The new Arab News/YouGov research reveals that while 76 percent of our sample drawn from across the region believe that the next US president will have a significant impact on the direction of the Arab world, half believe that neither of the candidates to be the next president will be good for the region. No wonder only one in 10 say they take a strong interest in the campaign.
The region is heavily disappointed in both of the last two presidents. Donald Trump fares very badly — with the majority in the region opposing his Jerusalem embassy move for instance. And when asked about the effect of Obama’s policies on the region, our sample by two-to-one thought it negative. The same proportion thought it would be better for Joe Biden to distance himself from that administration, in which he served as vice president.
Biden has a significant opportunity in the region if he wins the election next week. While nine out of 10 of our sample have heard of Trump and most have made up their mind against him, only half have heard of Biden — and that half is evenly split in positivity. In other words, only a quarter of the sample view him negatively.
When asked how they would cast their vote if they were given the opportunity, 12 percent chose the Republican incumbent Trump, versus 40 percent who preferred the Democratic challenger Biden. Fully 49 percent wouldn’t vote for either of them.
We have also questioned our respondents about what they most wanted the next US president to do.
The data reveals that solving the Arab-Israeli conflict comes top of the list. But Arabs do not agree on the role the US should be playing in the mediation between Israelis and Palestinians, with half of respondents (48 percent) believing the US should play a bigger role and the other half (52 percent) believing the opposite.
However, there is strongly unified disapproval for Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, with nine out of 10 saying it was wrong.
Arabs are divided on the US relations with Iran. Only a minority (17 percent) believe the withdrawal from the nuclear deal and the increased sanctions on Iran has made the region safer.
Twice as many respondents believe it has made the region less safe, while nearly half of all respondents believe it did not have any impact. Opinions on the next US president’s stance on US relations with Iran are also divided, with no clear agreement from respondents on the position to adopt.
While 59 percent of Arabs acknowledge the US is playing a role in fighting extremism in the region, a large majority (84 percent) believes the US has not done enough to support Arab countries in that battle.
When asked about the biggest threats facing to the Arab world today, failed governments come first (66 percent), followed by economic slowdown (43 percent), radical Islamic terrorism (33 percent) and COVID-19 (32 percent).
Interestingly, the same question about threats facing the US reveal that Arabs perceive white nationalism as the number one threat (32 percent), and only 5 percent of respondents believe radical Islamic terrorism to be a threat to the US.
• Stephan Shakespeare is the Group CEO & cofounder of YouGov plc.