The 2022 Arab Opinion Index and Its Implications for US Foreign Policy – January 31, 2023

By Kate Hibbert

On Tuesday, January 31, The Fares Center welcomed Professor Dana El Kurd from the University of Richmond and approximately 35 students and faculty in a hybrid format. A non-resident Senior Fellow at the Arab Center Washington, El Kurd shared the results of the 2022 Arab Opinion Index (AOI), the largest public opinion survey in the Arab world.

The presentation focused on the methodology and findings of the 2022 AOI survey and highlighted specific results that have implications for U.S. Foreign Policy. In 2022, researchers were able to interview 33,000 respondents in 14 countries, with 4,500 interviews taking place over the phone with Saudi residents.Topics included living conditions, the perception of the state, religion in politics, and more.

For example, El Kurd noted that generally speaking, the concept of democracy is not viewed negatively in the Arab world, as general majorities agree with the statement that “Democracy is the best system,” and this response rate has not changed dramatically since 2011. She also noted that 75% of respondents believe that the Palestinian issue is a concern for all Arabs and that the percentage of respondents who view the US as a threat to the region (78%) is significantly higher than the percent who believe that Iran and Russia are a threat (57% each).

After the formal talk, a lively discussion about the influence of public opinion developed. Professor Nadim Rouhana, referencing the 4% positive approval of normalization with Israel among Saudi respondents – even as the states move to integrate further -questioned whether government leaders need to take into account the opinions of their citizens. El Kurd responded that in the long term, policy will have to integrate public opinion. She stated that in order to ensure sustainable and peaceful integration, the United States and Israel will need public opinion on their side.