Last month, Zogby International released a poll of Arab attitudes in six Arab countries — Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In Saudi Arabia, polling was conducted in Dammam, Jeddah, Mecca, and Riyadh, giving a fair cross-section of the country (I would have liked to have seen polling in more rural areas and those less “international” in their outlooks). The poll (an 18-page PDF document) is available from the US-Saudi Relations Organization (SUSRIS).
There are both good and bad signs in this poll. One of the good things is that the Saudi government’s anti-terror message is clearly sinking in. The Saudis polled consider combatting terrorism to be the second most important issue facing the country (up from 7th place last year), following only the expansion of employment opportunities. On that front, there’s good news, too, in that 61% thought they had good prospects of finding jobs at home.
Further, Saudis feel generally optimistic about their situation. When asked if they were better off than four years ago, 49% said yes (up from 34% in 2002). Four years from now, 71% expect to be doing better (up from 40%). And 80% expect their children to do better than they.
Attitudes toward the US, however, continue to drop. Asked about how their opinion of the US has changed over the past year, 82% said it had worsened. The War in Iraq (49%) and American Treatment of Arabs and Muslims (32%) were seen as the major causes for negative attitudes. Fully 89% have negative views of the US.
The poll asks other questions, as concerning attitudes about women in the workplace, about why jobs are hard to find, about peace in the Middle East, and issues of self-identity. These questions are interesting in themselves, but even more so when seen in relation to the answers given by other countries.
Do take a look at the poll report, or at least at the executive summary.