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WASHINGTON, Aug 5, 2010 (IPS) - U.S. President Barack Obama has suffered a sharp drop in popularity in the Arab world over the past year, and Iran may be reaping the benefits, according to a major new survey of public opinion in five Arab countries released here Thursday.
Only 20 percent of respondents in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) now view the U.S. president positively, compared to 45 percent who did so in the spring of 2009, according to the 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll conducted by Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution and the Zogby International polling firm.
Moreover, negative views of Obama have skyrocketed – from 23 percent to 62 percent – since the last poll was conducted in April-May 2009. The new findings were based on interviews with nearly 4,000 adults in the six countries between Jun. 29 and Jul. 20 this year.
When respondents were asked to name the world leader they admired most, Obama's standing was less than one percent. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was cited most often (20 percent), followed by last year's top pick, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (13 percent), and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (12 percent).
Much of the disillusionment with Obama appears related to his failure to make progress in achieving a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, according to Telhami, who has conducted eight previous surveys of Arab opinion since 2000.
Asked what policies pursued by the Obama administration they were most disappointed with, 61 percent of respondents in the new poll identified the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. That was more than twice the percentage of the next-most- cited example, Washington's Iraq policy (27 percent).
"This is the prism through which Arabs view the Untied States," Telhami said, referring to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Iran appears to have benefited, at least indirectly, from Arab disillusionment with Obama, the poll results suggested.