Survey: Obama Approval Drops in Muslim Countries

Confidence in President Obama dropped in predominantly Muslim countries over the past year, a new Pew Research Center report found.

The U.S. president's ratings based on confidence that he will do the right thing in world affairs dropped as much as 10 percent in Turkey from 2009 to 2010, according to the 22-nation Pew Global Attitudes Survey. Out of the 22 nations surveyed, six had a predominantly Muslim population: Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Indonesia.

When only Muslims were surveyed in those six countries, the level of confidence in Obama dropped even more dramatically. The percentage of Muslims expressing confidence in the U.S. president fell from 41 percent to 31 percent in Egypt and 45 percent to 35 percent in Lebanon over the past year.

By comparison, 33 percent of the overall population of Egypt expressed confidence in Obama and 43 percent held the same view in Lebanon.

In Indonesia, where Obama spent part of his childhood, the president's rating among Muslims dropped from 70 to 65 percent. Indonesia was the only predominantly Muslim country surveyed where the majority of Muslims still expressed confidence in Obama.

The low ratings come as a bit of a surprise given Obama's effort to reach out and improve relations with Muslim nations.

Last year, Obama delivered speeches to the Muslim world in Ankara, Turkey and Cairo, Egypt. In his Ankara speech, Obama said the United States "is not and will not be at war with Islam." He also praised the Islamic faith for shaping the world for the better. Then in his Cairo speech last June, Obama praised Islam for its tradition of tolerance.

The president has been criticized for his soft strategy in dealing with the Muslim world. Sabatina James, a Muslim who converted to Christianity who is now a prominent rights activist in Europe, criticized Obama for failing to speak up for persecuted Christians in his Cairo speech.

"You (President Obama) are saying these things about the prophet [Muhammad] but why don't you protect [Christians]?" James recalled herself asking while watching Obama's speech in Cairo last year.

"He should have said that he feels for the people who are living in prison and who may somehow be listening to the speech," she said. "Even if he said something like that it would be good. But he did not even mention it."

James has spent the past nine years living in hiding or under police protection because of death threats against her life for leaving Islam. She contended that current U.S. dialogue with Islamic countries is not working and not helpful to religious minorities in Muslim countries.

Obama has tried to be on friendlier terms with the Islamic world than his predecessor.

But the new Pew survey shows he is not meeting much statistical success.

The Middle East conflicts appear to still put Arab nations at odds with the U.S. president.

In all six predominantly Muslim countries, the majority of the population disapproves of Obama's handling of the warzones in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Iran and the Palestinian conflict.

Eighty-four percent of the population in Jordan disapproves of Obama's handling of Iran and the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Pew Research Center report shows, however, that concern over the president's handling of Afghanistan and other Middle East conflicts is not limited to Arab nations. There is high levels of concern in countries such as China (41 percent), Japan (46 percent), and Brazil (49 percent) in Obama's handling of the Palestinian conflict.

Despite his negative ratings in predominantly Muslim nations, President Obama is popular in other parts of the world. The majority of the population in Western countries, with a few exceptions, believe Obama will do the right thing in world affairs.

In the United States, the confidence level that Obama will do the right thing dropped from 74 percent in 2009 to 65 percent in 2010.

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