Obama debate claims about changing world attitudes largely untrue in Muslim world, Pew survey finds

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

Despite a claim by President Barack Obama that “attitudes about Americans have changed” as a result of his foreign policy in Libya and Egypt, polls show support of the United States among Arabs has declined since former President George W. Bush’s tenure.

Positive views of the U.S. in several Muslim nations slipped from 22 percent in 2008 to 19 percent in 2012, according to a Pew Research Center report announced in June 2012. Support in both Pakistan and Jordan fell from 19 percent to 12 percent, while U.S. popularity in Turkey rose, from 12 percent to 15 percent.

“In Egypt, we stood on the side of democracy,” Obama said during Monday’s presidential debate. “In Libya, we stood on the side of the people … as a consequence, there’s no doubt that attitudes about Americans have changed.”

America’s approval rating among Muslim countries substantially increased following the president’s major 2009 speech in Cairo, when Obama praised Arab society and Islam, and incorrectly credited Islam with the invention of printing and the compass.

Shortly after his tour, friendly attitudes towards the U.S. peaked at 27 percent in Egypt, and 25 percent in Jordan.

However, Obama’s leadership is still significantly more popular globally than Bush’s, and most foreign nations overwhelmingly support his re-election.

And Obama’s policy-ratings have been higher than Bush’s ratings, except in Pakistan, where both presidents scored only 7 percent support, according to Pew.

A change  in support among Muslims doesn’t indicate whether a U.S. policy is good or bad for Americans. Sometimes, a drop in support may be caused by a policy that Americans strongly support — for example, the successful killing of Osama bin Laden.

Follow Neil on Twitter

Neil Munro