A short follow-up on the Pew poll of foreign attitudes about the United States. Several readers have written in to question my characterization that the poll "appears to show a rising tide of anti-Americanism in Arab states that are at least nominally allied with the United States. Most daunting, the public in those states is apparently increasingly supportive of suicide bombings."
In fact, they note, the poll actually shows a slackening of anti-American attitudes in the four Muslim countries surveyed.
As Pew phrases it in one of their summaries, "anger toward the United States remains pervasive [in the four Muslim states surveyed], although the level of hatred has eased somewhat and support for the war on terrorism has inched up."
Now, one issue here is who's an Arab and who's a Muslim. But the key is what Pew's comparison point is. And what they're comparing to in that passage principally is the sounding they did in May 2003 -- in other words, about a month after the war. And from a month after the war to now there has been a slackening, although a modest one in those four Muslim states.
There was a spike. And it's true that the numbers have come down a bit from that high. I should have made that more clear. But the valid point of comparison, to me at least, isn't from the point when there was still smoke in the air till now (tempers do cool of course), but rather going back to before the war happened at all and over the period of the build up to it.
For that you need to go back to the data contained in this Pew survey which was released in 2002 but has data from 1999/2000 as well. Looking across that time horizon, which seems to me to the best for judging the impact of recent events, the trend line is quite clear despite coming down a bit from the spike during the war.
My reference of course was to Arab states nominally allied to the United States and the current Pew survey includes hard data on two of these -- though Morocco is actually mixed language and ethnicity. According to Pew, the favorability rating of the US in Jordan in the summer of 2002 was 25%. Just after the war it was 1%. And it has bounced back, if one can say that without too much irony, to 5%.
(Unfortunately, while Pew has pre-war-on-terror numbers for Pakistan and Turkey, they don't seem to have them -- at least not that I can find -- for Jordan. If anybody can point me to such numbers I'd be most obliged if you can send a reference.)
Now to the other point I mentioned.
One of the things that struck me most about these new numbers -- and comparing them with the December 2002 numbers -- were the opinions about the acceptability of suicide bombings.
Now, there's a problem because the questions don't seem to have been posed in the just the same fashion. In the earlier survey (Dec. 2002) the question was whether suicide bombings are acceptable in 'defense of Islam.' In the more recent survey the question was asked with respect to such attacks in Israel/Palestine and then against Americans or Westerners in Iraq.
Again, slightly different questions. But one can still draw some conclusions from the results. And they're not good.
In the earlier survey (and the questions were only asked of Muslims), the only country where Muslims seemed clearly to support suicide bombings was Lebanon (73% support, 21% oppose).
A number of countries were surveyed and after Lebanon the numbers jumped down rapidly, with a bunch of countries between more or less evenly divided. Jordan, for instance, the numbers were 43% for, 48% against.
Now, again, in the current survey they didn't use the straight 'defense of Islam' phrasing. They asked if suicide bombings were okay in those two places. Jordanians now believe suicide bombings are justifiable by Palestinians against Israelis by a margin of 86% to 12%. Against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq they believe they are justified by a margin of 70% to 24%.
In any case, as with all polls, to a get a sense of what they say you really need to dig into the details and the various subsidiary questions that are asked. So here's the link to the new one, the one from May 2003 and the one I've been referencing from 2002.