Poll: Dramatic Change of Public Opinion in the Muslim World

In the first poll in Pakistan since the earthquake of October 8, 2005, Pakistanis now hold a more favorable opinion of the United States than at any time since 9/11, while support for Al Qaeda in its home base has dropped to its lowest level since then. The direct cause for this dramatic shift in Muslim opinion is clear: American humanitarian assistance for Pakistani earthquake victims.

The second largest and only Muslim nation with nuclear weapons, Pakistan has long been a stronghold for Islamist radicals, and is the likely base for Bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders planning further attacks against the US.

The findings from Terror Free Tomorrow’s survey demonstrate the most significant shift in Pakistani, indeed Muslim, public opinion since 9/11.
Key Findings of the Poll:
  • 73% of Pakistanis surveyed in November 2005 now believe suicide terrorist attacks are never justified, up from 46% just last May.
  • Support for Osama Bin Laden has declined significantly (51% favorable in May 2005 to just 33% in November), while those who oppose him rose over the same period from 23% to 41%.
  • US favorability among Pakistanis has doubled from 23% in May to more than 46% now, while the percentage of Pakistanis with very unfavorable views declined from 48% to 28%.
  • For the first time since 9/11, more Pakistanis are now favorable to the United States than unfavorable.
  • 78% of Pakistanis have a more favorable opinion of the United States because of the American response to the earthquake, with the strongest support among those under 35.
  • 79% of those with confidence in Bin Laden now have a more favorable view of the US because of American earthquake aid.
  • 81% said that earthquake relief was important for them in forming their overall opinion of the United States.
  • The United States fared better in Pakistani public opinion than both other Western countries and radical Islamist groups.
  • While opinion of the United States itself improved significantly, this did not translate into increased support for US-led efforts to fight terrorism.  Tellingly, those who oppose US efforts against terrorism grew, from 52% in May to 64% now.
The public opinion survey was conducted by Terror Free Tomorrow, with fieldwork by the leading Pakistani pollster, ACNielsen Pakistan. The poll surveyed 1,450 Pakistani adults over November 14-28, 2005 and has a margin of error of 2.6%.
Critical Implications:
  • The support base that empowers global terrorists has dramatically declined in Al Qaeda’s home base. This is a major blow to Al Qaeda and other radical Islamists.
  • American humanitarian assistance can make a significant and immediate difference in eroding the popular support base for global terrorists, but the US “war on terror” has not.
  • The United States must sustain its relief and reconstruction efforts in Pakistan in order to prevent popular support for Islamist radicals from rebounding.  Indeed, 78% of Pakistanis want continued American assistance.
  • The poll follows similar findings from two previous Terror Free Tomorrow public opinion surveys in Indonesia and the Palestinian Territories. 65% of Indonesians had a more favorable opinion of the United States because of American tsunami relief. Similarly, a strong majority of Palestinians want the United States to become more involved in resolving the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.
  • These public opinion surveys, in three distinct regions of the Muslim world, demonstrate for the first time that American policies based on humanitarian interventions result in substantial, favorable changes in Muslim opinion, while the declared US “war on terror,” for the most part, does not.

For the complete poll results and report, click here (Word), click here (PDF). 
For an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal about the poll, click here.
For The Christian Science Monitor, click here.
For a CNN Interview, click here.
For a New York Post op-ed, click here.

For an op-ed in The Miami Herald, click here.

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