Poll: US continues to lose ground in the Middle East

The latest polling data commissioned by the Washington Institute reveals a widening gap between the United States and the Arab population in the Gulf
El príncipe saudí Mohammed bin Salman saludando al presidente estadounidense Joe Biden

BANDAR ALGALOUD/ SAUDI ROYAL COURT  -   Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman greeting US President Joe Biden

At the end of August the US think tank Washington Institute published the results of a poll it commissioned and conducted earlier this summer. The purpose of the survey was to find out what people in Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan and Lebanon think about various current international issues. 

Respondents in all these countries responded progressively from November 2021 to August 2022 towards more distant positions from the United States, while believing that their governments should move closer to China and Russia.  This is one of the main conclusions drawn from the data presented by David Pollock's team of analysts. 

Pollock's conclusion coincides with the idea that could be drawn after the last visit of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, to the island of Taiwan. In the aftermath, UAE diplomacy reiterated its support for the One China policy position and disapproved of Pelosi's move in Asia, calling it "destabilising and provocative". 

Emirati respondents agree with their government's stance. In August 2022, 60% of respondents were in favour (26% strongly in favour and 34% in favour) of the premise that "Our country cannot count on the United States today, so we should look more to Russia or China as partners". This was 9 points higher than in November 2021 and 3 points higher than in March 2022, at the dawn of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

In Saudi Arabia, the population's response to the same statement was 49% (22% strongly in favour, 27% in favour) in November 2021; 55% (26% strongly in favour, 29% in favour) in March 2022 and finally 59% in August 2022. A much more pronounced progression than that of the United Arab Emirates. 20 points more, to be precise. The trend is similar throughout the region, with the exception of Lebanon, where, from November 2021 to March 2022, responses in favour decreased, but only by 2 points, from 55 to 53.

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain ranked highest in this segment.  In these three countries, 55%, 59% and another 59% respectively said that the US priority in the region should be to "help us resolve regional conflicts through diplomacy" and "provide advanced weaponry to our armed forces". 

Despite distancing themselves from the US, respondents in the UAE and Saudi Arabia neither sympathise with nor support Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Indeed, they condemn Putin's aggression more strongly than their governments, which at the United Nations chose to respond with restraint, a maxim among most Arab countries. 63% of Emiratis surveyed condemn the invasion and 65% of their Saudi neighbours feel the same way. 

However, they argue that relations with Russia should be good and place their countries' diplomacy with the Kremlin as a priority. This response has an increasing trend towards responses in favour of having a good relationship with Russia. 

The UAE population responded in favour of this question by 40% back in 2017, while in August 2022 55% of respondents believe that they should get along well and very well with Russia. In Saudi Arabia, the growth in popularity of this idea has again been exponential. From 35% in favour in 2017 it has risen to 52% in August 2022. 

China follows Russia behind in these ratings, with less support from the surveyed population and less growth. In the United Arab Emirates, 53% of respondents answered 'very important' and 'important' to the question about the relevance of their country's diplomatic relations with the Asian giant. In parallel, Saudi Arabia responded with 55% to the same question. 

The United States of America came last, with only 44% of Emirati respondents and 41% of Saudi Arabian nationals giving positive ratings.

Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra