Obama with Saudi King Abdullah, March 28, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
While US President Barack Obama's favorability ratings in the Arab world improved compared to last year, there are many in the Middle East who remain dissatisfied with his handling of key issues, chief among them the Israeli-Palestinian question, according to a new poll conducted by the Zogby Research Service.
Five years after Obama's landmark speech in Cairo which was meant to usher in a new era of relations with the Arab world following the tumultuous George W. Bush presidency, Arabs credit the administration for ending the US military presence in Iraq and working to end Iran's nuclear program.
However, the poll revealed that Arab public opinion gave the administration poor grades in improving relations with the Arab-Muslim world and its handling of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
The annual survey questioned nearly 7,000 people from six countries in the Middle East, including the Palestinian territories.
"In most Arab countries, attitudes toward the US are back to where they were in 2009, and are higher than the Bush-era lows," the poll said.
"Strong majorities in every Arab country believe that the United States is not evenhanded in its approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making and have very little confidence that the United States is committed to an independent Palestinian state," the survey said. "There is a sharp decline in confidence that the United States is committed to democracy across the Middle East."
The poll found that Arabs back the administration's efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program, though they have "little confidence that these negotiations will succeed or that they will be of benefit to Arab countries."
The survey also found that there was overwhelming support among Arabs for the administration's policy on Syria, which favors a negotiated settlement as well as humanitarian aid for refugees. The poll found that there is virtually across-the-board Arab opposition to any US military intervention in Syria.
As for the way Obama is perceived among Arabs, the poll found that while he is not as popular as former president Bill Clinton, he is looked at more favorably than his predecessor, Bush.