Poll: Arabs support strikes on IS, not US policy

Poll: Arabs support strikes on IS, not US policy
Survey by The Arab Centre for Policy and Research finds unprecedented support for US-led military campaign in the region but one rooted in hostility to the Islamic State group
3 min read
12 November, 2014
Poll finds majority support campaign against IS [Getty]

Arab public opinion is weighed heavily against the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS) and a majority also supports the US-led airstrikes against the group, according to a new poll.


In spite of this unprecedented support for coalition bombings, there was no change in Arab attitudes towards wider US policies in the region, which are still largely negative.


An alliance of 60 countries is engaged in the bombing campaign against the militant group. On Sunday, Barack Obama, the US president, said the campaign was entering a new phase in the conflict with an extra 1,500 US military personnel heading to Iraq to advise and train Iraqi forces and certain tribes. A number of Arab governments are part of the coalition but are active to differing degrees.


The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies surveyed the opinions of 5,100 people in seven Arab countries as well as in Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Among those polled 85 percent hold negative views of IS to varying degrees and almost two-thirds support the military campaign against the militant group.

     85 percent hold negative views of IS to varying degrees and almost two-thirds support the military campaign against the group.


Roughly one in ten of those asked held views that were “positive” or “positive to some extent” about IS. The reasons for support were rarely based on the group’s strict adherence to Islamic principles. Rather, more commonly cited factors included military achievements; preparedness to challenge the West; opposition to Iran and the Syrian and Iraqi regimes; or purported support for the Sunni Muslim community in the Levant.


The poll presents a unique scenario: the suggestion that a majority of Arabs support an American-led military campaign in the region is unprecedented and indicative of the level of fear over the rapid advances and extreme violence of IS.


Nevertheless, while a majority of those polled support the military confrontation with IS they do not support wider US policy in the region. Seventy-three percent of respondents described US regional policy as either “Negative” or “Negative to some extent”. Similarly, a clear majority of those polled agreed that for the US to improve its standing in the region, it should end financial and military support for Israel and help resolve the Syrian crisis.  


Furthermore, while support for the military campaign appears rooted in enmity toward IS rather than support of US policies in the region, there is also a lack in belief that the coalition can meet its stated goals.


Fewer than a quarter of respondents expressed unqualified confidence in the ability of the US-led coalition to fulfill its mission. A majority of respondents said global and regional powers stood to gain most campaign against IS, in order of precedence, the United States, Israel, Iran and the Syrian regime. This contrasts with a meagre three percent of respondents who believe that their own countries stood to gain from the campaign.

This article has been amended since first publication to correct one statistic given. Almost two-thirds of respondents support the campaign against the Islamic State group, not three-thirds as previously stated. We apologise for any confusion.