America Is the Enemy for Most Young Arabs, New Survey Finds

The majority of Arab youths consider America to be an enemy rather than an ally, according to a newly published poll surveying young people age 18 to 24 in 16 Arab states.

The 2018 edition of the annual Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey showed a marked shift in perception of the U.S., going from majority positive to majority negative in just two years, Axios reported.

The survey collated responses from 3,500 young people, half of whom were men and half women. The majority of those asked—57 percent—said they see the U.S. as an enemy and only 35 percent considered the country an ally. In 2016, 63 percent believed the U.S. was an allied country and 32 percent an enemy.

Lebanese supporters of the Hezbollah movement burn a U.S. flag during a rally against President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, in southern Lebanon, on January 28. MAHMOUD ZAYYAT/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump accounts in some way for this reversal: Seventy-three percent of respondents thought Trump's election has had a negative impact on their countries.

While the U.S. was previously considered the top non-Arab ally, it has now been usurped by Russia. America is now 11th on the table, with only 13 percent of the vote.

This might be of concern for Trump and his supporters who believed the world was laughing at the U.S. when Barack Obama was in the Oval Office. Asked who their country's best ally is, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was the top choice for Arab youths overall.

More than half of the young people asked were pleased that the U.S. had withdrawn from Iraq, but 60 percent thought that signing the Iran nuclear deal was a bad decision. Depending on what Trump announces on Tuesday afternoon, Arab youths might soon look more kindly on the U.S., though next week's opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem is also sure to be unpopular among them.

America may not be the ally it once was, but it came in joint second with Canada as the best country in which to live, with 18 percent of votes. Though this was far behind the UAE, which came top with 35 percent. The UAE was also the state most youths want their country to emulate, garnering 36 percent backing. The U.S. and Canada were once again in joint second place with 17 percent.

In a win for American soft power, CNN was chosen as the most trusted news source for those surveyed, with Al Jazeera considered the least reputable.

Dubai, UAE
Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, is seen in an aerial view. The UAE was seen by Arab youths as their best ally and the best place to live, the 2018 edition of the annual Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey showed. Warren Little/Getty Images

Surveyed youths were generally pessimistic about the state of the Arab world after several years of failed political reform movements and civil war. A majority of respondents (55 percent) believe the region is moving in the wrong direction. This pessimism is especially pronounced in the Levant, where 85 percent say their countries are on the wrong course.

The rise of the militant group Islamic State (ISIS) was cited by 22 percent of respondents as having the biggest impact on the Arab world in the past decade, followed by the Arab Spring at 19 percent. The appearance of ISIS was seen as a negative development by 88 percent, with only 4 percent considering it a positive. 58 percent believe ISIS and its ideology will eventually be totally defeated.

Those surveyed came from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.