Michael Robbins, Amaney A. Jamal, and Mark Tessler


Each Arab Barometer survey polls over 1,200 respondents and is conducted in person in the respondent’s place of residence. These surveys question respondents on their views on a wide array of topics, including economic and religious issues, views of their governments, political participation, women’s rights, the environment, and international affairs. Since October 7, Arab Barometer has completed surveys in five diverse Arab countries: Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, and Morocco.

Because Arab Barometer’s previous round of surveys in these countries was conducted between 2021 and 2022, factors other than the war in Gaza may have contributed to changes in public opinion between then and now. One additional poll, however, happened to provide an invaluable benchmark, allowing us to deduce that certain key shifts in opinion probably occurred much more recently.

Between September 13 and November 4, 2023, we conducted a scheduled survey in Tunisia involving 2,406 interviews. About half these interviews were conducted before October 7 and about half afterward.

To understand how Tunisians’ views changed after October 7, we calculated the average responses during the three weeks before Hamas’s attack and then tracked daily changes in the weeks that followed—finding a swift, sharp drop in the percentage of respondents who held favorable views of the United States. The results in most other countries we surveyed in 2021–22 and after October 7 followed a similar pattern: in all but one, views of the United States also declined markedly.

Despite the horror of Hamas’s attack, few Arab Barometer respondents agreed that it ought to be called a “terrorist act.” By contrast, the vast majority agreed that Israel’s campaign in Gaza ought to be classified as terrorism.

For the most part, Arab citizens surveyed after October 7 assessed the situation in Gaza as dire. When asked which of seven words, including “war,” “hostilities,” “massacre,” and “genocide,” best described the ongoing events in Gaza, the most common term respondents chose in all but one country was “genocide.”

Only in Morocco did a substantial number of respondents—24 percent—call those events a “war,” about the same percentage of Moroccans that called it a “massacre.” Everywhere else, less than 15 percent of respondents chose “war” to characterize what was happening in Gaza.

Furthermore, Arab Barometer surveys found that Arab citizens do not believe that Western actors are standing up for Gazans. Our survey asked, “Among the following parties, which do you believe is committed to defending Palestinian rights?” and allowed respondents to select all that applied from a list of ten countries, the European Union, and the United Nations. No more than 17 percent of respondents in any country agreed that the United Nations is standing up for Palestinian rights.

The European Union fared worse, but the United States received the lowest marks: eight percent of respondents in Kuwait, six percent in Morocco and Lebanon, five percent in Mauritania, and two percent in Jordan agreed that it stood up for Palestinians.

The results for the United States diverged even more from those of other Western and global actors on the question of protecting Israel. When asked whether the United States was protecting Israeli rights, more than 60 percent of respondents in all five countries agreed that it was doing so. These percentages far exceed the percentages of respondents who agreed that the European Union or the United Nations is protecting Israel.

These perceptions in the Arab world about Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, and about the United States’ approach to it, appear to have had major consequences for the United States’ overall reputation. In nine of the ten countries in which Arab Barometer asked about U.S. favorability in 2021, at least a third of all respondents said that they held a favorable view of the United States.

In four out of the five countries surveyed between December 2023 and March 2024, however, fewer than a third viewed the United States favorably. In Jordan, the percentage of respondents that viewed the United States favorably dropped dramatically, from 51 percent in 2022 to 28 percent in a poll conducted in the winter of 2023–24.

In Mauritania, the percentage of respondents that viewed the United States favorably fell from 50 percent in a survey conducted in the winter of 2021–22 to 31 percent in the survey conducted in the winter of 2023–24, and in Lebanon, it fell from 42 percent in the winter of 2021–22 to 27 percent in early 2024. Similarly, the percentage of respondents who agreed that U.S. President Joe Biden’s foreign policies were “good” or “very good” dropped by 12 points in Lebanon and nine points in Jordan over the same period.

The timing of our survey in Tunisia strongly suggests that Israel’s military campaign in Gaza drove this overall decline. In the three weeks before October 7, 40 percent of Tunisians said they had a favorable view of the United States. By October 27, not quite three weeks after the start of Israel’s military operations in Gaza, just ten percent of Tunisians said the same.

Although Arabs’ opinion of the United States and Biden declined after October 7, views on different aspects of the United States’ engagement with the Middle East did not all fall equally. Our respondents were just as likely to agree that U.S. foreign aid to their country strengthens education initiatives or that it strengthens civil society as they were before October 7.

In fact, respondents in Jordan, Mauritania, and Morocco in our winter of 2023–24 survey were slightly more likely to agree that U.S. foreign aid strengthens civil society than they were in 2021 and 2022. These findings suggest that disagreement with the U.S. government’s policy toward Israel and the war in Gaza, not other elements of U.S. foreign policy, are driving the decline in the United States’ regional reputation.


Despite offering limited material and rhetorical support for Gaza, China has been the primary beneficiary of the United States’ decline in reputation among Arab publics. In its 2021–22 surveys, Arab Barometer demonstrated that Arabs’ support for China was declining. But in recent months, this trend has reversed.

In all the countries Arab Barometer surveyed after October 7, at least half the respondents said they held favorable views of China. In both Jordan and Morocco, key U.S. allies, China has benefited from at least a 15-point increase in its favorability ratings.

When asked whether U.S. or Chinese policies are better for their region’s security, respondents in three of the five countries we surveyed after October 7 said they preferred China’s approach. China’s actual presence in the region has, in fact, been minimal, with its engagement focused mostly on economic deals through its Belt and Road Initiative.

Arab publics in the Middle East appear to understand that China has played a limited role in the events in Gaza: only 14 percent of Lebanese respondents, 13 percent of Moroccans, nine percent of Kuwaitis, seven percent of Jordanians, and a vanishingly small three percent of Mauritanians agreed that China is committed to defending the rights of Palestinians.

It is likely, then, that respondents’ increasingly favorable views of China reflect their dissatisfaction with U.S. and Western policies. When asked more specific policy questions, our respondents gave more ambivalent answers.

Asked if they thought Chinese policies are better at “protecting freedoms and rights,” American policies are better, Chinese and American policies are equally good, or Chinese and American policies are equally bad, a plurality of Kuwaitis, Mauritanians, and Moroccans said U.S. policies are better than Chinese policies.

Respondents in two countries that border Israel, however, felt the opposite: in Arab Barometer surveys in Jordan and Lebanon after October 7, substantially more respondents agreed that China’s policies are better than the United States’ at protecting rights and freedoms.

China’s record on protecting rights and freedoms at home and abroad is poor, but the Lebanese and Jordanian populations now consider the United States’ record to be even worse. This finding reflects a larger trend in Arab Barometer’s data: geography matters. People who live closest to the conflict in Gaza and whose countries have historically accommodated large numbers of Palestinian refugees expressed the lowest confidence in specific U.S. Middle East policies.


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