2006 Poll:  Humanitarian Relief Sustains Change in Muslim Public Opinion

A new poll by Terror Free Tomorrow demonstrates that one year after the tsunami in Indonesia, the dramatic increase in Indonesian support for the United States and against Bin Laden has continued. American humanitarian aid to tsunami victims last year caused an overwhelming change of opinion in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country. The new nationwide poll throughout Indonesia reveals that this dramatic shift has not only been sustained, but has strengthened. The fact that more than a year after American help, Indonesians continue to appreciate America’s role is stunning proof of the sustained power of positive and substantial assistance to radically change Muslim public opinion.


Despite widespread stories on Koran desecration, Guantanamo, even the Danish cartoons, favorable opinion toward the United States in Indonesia has actually increased from 34 percent a year ago to 44 percent at the end of January 2006, while unfavorable views declined from 54 percent to 41 percent. The overwhelming reason for these changes continues to be American humanitarian relief. The increased favorable view of the United States occurred in tandem with similar declines in support for Bin Laden and terrorism.


 Key Findings of the Poll:


·       For the first time in almost four years, more Indonesians are favorable to the United States than unfavorable, while support for Bin Laden and terrorism has dropped to its lowest level since 9/11.


·       63% of Indonesians continue to have a more favorable opinion of the United States because of the American response to the tsunami more than a year later.


·       Favorable opinion among Indonesians to the United States has nearly tripled from 15% in May 2003 to 34% in January 2005 and more than 44% now, while the percentage of Indonesians with very unfavorable views declined from 48% in May 2003 to 21% last January and just 13% today.


·       The United States fared better in Indonesian public opinion than other Western countries, other Islamic countries and local Islamist groups.


·       Only a mere 2% of Indonesians surveyed now believe suicide terrorist attacks are ever justified, down from 27% after 9/11, and 9% last year.


·       Support for Osama Bin Laden has declined significantly (58% favorable in May 2003 to 23% a year ago and just 12% now).



Critical Implications:


·       American humanitarian assistance can make a significant and long-term difference in building goodwill toward the United States and eroding popular support for global terrorists.


·       The United States must sustain its relief and reconstruction efforts in Indonesia in order to prevent popular support for Islamist radicalism from rebounding.  Indeed, a majority of Indonesians want continued American assistance.


·       The poll follows similar findings from previous Terror Free Tomorrow public opinion surveys in Indonesia, Pakistan and the Palestinian Territories. 78% of Pakistanis had a more favorable opinion of the United States because of American earthquake 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 sustained, substantial, and favorable changes in Muslim opinion.


For the complete poll results and report, including methodology, click here (Word), click here (PDF). 


For an editorial in The Wall Street Journal about the poll, click here.

For an op-ed in The Christian Science Monitor, click here.
For an article in U.S. News & World Report, click here.
For a Christian Science Monitor article, click here.
For the Associated Press, click here.
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