- The Washington Times - Friday, March 4, 2005

Muslim opinion of America is changing — for the better, according to a poll released yesterday at the District-based Heritage Foundation.

Described as “dramatic” and categorized as “the first substantial shift of public opinion in the Muslim world” since September 11, the findings reveal that pronounced Islamic distaste of the United States is waning.

Based on a survey conducted Feb. 1-6 of 1,200 adults in Indonesia — the world’s largest Muslim country — the poll found that 40 percent favored U.S.-led efforts against global terrorism — up from 23 percent in 2003.

Another 36 percent said they opposed those efforts; the figure stood at 72 percent two years ago.

Confidence in Osama bin Laden has dropped. When asked if they thought the terrorist leader could “do the right thing regarding world affairs,” 23 percent agreed.

In 2003, that figure was 58 percent.

“The support base that empowers global terrorists has significantly eroded. … This is a major blow to al Qaeda and other terrorists,” the poll stated.

American response to the tsunami that ravaged the region last December has inspired good feelings.

The poll found that 65 percent had a more favorable view toward the United States in the aftermath, with 75 percent saying Americans had done enough to help tsunami victims and 64 percent deeming that assistance “important.”

Among those who said they supported bin Laden, 71 percent said that American tsunami relief had made them more favorable to the United States.

Polling was done face to face in both urban and rural areas of Indonesia.

“This is just plain good news, and represents a huge sea change. Favorable feelings for the U.S. have increased dramatically, indicating we may be on the verge of turning the corner in this region,” said Ken Ballen, president of District-based Terror Free Tomorrow, which sponsored the poll.

Founded last year, the nonprofit organization advocates the idea that global terrorists can be defeated “by undermining the support base that empowers them,” according to Mr. Ballen.

The premise has won endorsements for the group from Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican; Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican; Warren Rudman, former Republican senator from New Hampshire; and September 11 commission members Lee Hamilton and Thomas Kean.

The new poll represents a departure from recent opinion surveys of the United States, which often cast America in the role of an oil-seeking bully with questionable culture.

A 2003 British Broadcasting Corp. poll of Indonesians found that 69 percent described Americans as “arrogant,” while 48 percent said “antagonistic.” Another 60 percent said the United States was “more dangerous” than al Qaeda.

In an overview of public interest polls released last month, the Pew Research Center noted, “anti-Americanism is deeper and broader now than in any time in modern history. It is most acute in the Muslim world.”

As part of its 2002 Global Attitude Survey, Pew found that 76 percent of Indonesian respondents said “the U.S. doesn’t solve world’s problems,” while another categorized American culture as “bad.”

Mr. Ballen, meanwhile, considers his own findings to be part of a definitive, positive trend.

“The awakening of democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere has contributed to some of these opinion changes,” he said. “It also could indicate a general weakening of radicalism in the Muslim world.”

The poll has a margin of error of less than three percentage points. Comparison figures cited from 2003 were based on data from the Pew Research Center.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide