Pew Research Center survey revealed that Saudi Arabia’s standing has slipped substantially among key Middle Eastern publics, including in Lebanon where favorable opinion has plummeted 31 percentage points since 2007.
In four of the five Middle Eastern countries surveyed in both 2007 and 2013, Saudi Arabia’s image has substantially worsened. The most dramatic decline has occurred in Lebanon, where overall opinion of the Saudi kingdom has fallen from 82% to 51% favorable over the past six years. Smaller, but significant drops in Saudi Arabia’s standing are evident in Turkey (- 14 percentage points), the Palestinian territories (-13) and Egypt (-13).
These are among the key findings from a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 39 countries among 37,653 respondents from March 2 to May 1, 2013.
Opinion of Saudi Arabia is nearly evenly split in Lebanon, where 51% see their neighbor in a positive light and 49% see it negatively.
Tunisians are also divided, with 40% holding a favorable view of Saudi Arabia, and 45% holding a negative view. Turkey, which is not only a regional neighbor but a fellow G20 member, is the only country polled where as many as half (53%) see the Saudi kingdom in a negative light.
While opinion of Saudi Arabia is on balance positive in the Middle East, favorable ratings from important allies, such as Egypt and the Palestinian territories have deteriorated since 2007 (-13 percentage points). And in Turkey, while 26% have a positive view of Saudi Arabia in 2013, this is down from 40% who said the same in 2007 (-14 percentage points).
However, the drop in support from Lebanon is even steeper. In 2007, 82% of the Lebanese public had a favorable view of the Saudi kingdom, but that has plummeted 31 percentage points, to just 51% today.
In Egypt (55%) and Jordan (51%), half or more say Saudi Arabia exerts significant influence on how things are going in their country, compared with even fewer who say the same in the Palestinian territories (44%), Tunisia (31%), and Turkey (20%).
In Lebanon, among the overwhelming majority who see Saudi Arabia as a major influence on their country, 48% say it is a bad thing.
Opinion of Saudi Arabia’s record on civil rights is highly critical in Europe, where as many as eight-in-ten or more in Spain (86%), Greece (84%), and France (81%) think the Saudi government does not protect the personal freedoms of its people. In North America, 74% of Canadians and 72% of Americans agree as well.
According to the study, opinion is more mixed in Asia and Latin America, but nowhere in those regions does a clear plurality give Saudi Arabia’s track record on civil liberties favorable marks.
Overall, across 39 countries surveyed in 2013 – including those polled in the Middle East – a median of just 18% thinks the Saudi government respects the personal freedoms of its people.