June 2nd, 2009
05:02 AM ET
10 years ago

CNN Poll: Many Americans hold unfavorable view of Muslim world

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Hours before President Barack Obama departs for a trip to the Middle East, a new national poll suggests that only one in five Americans has a favorable view of Muslim countries.

That compares to 46 percent of the people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey who say they have an unfavorable opinion of Muslim countries. That's up five points from 2002, when 41 percent indicated they had an unfavorable view.

Three in ten meanwhile say they have a neutral opinion of Muslim countries.

The poll also suggests that most Americans think people in Muslim countries don't think highly of the United States. Nearly eight in ten questioned say people in Muslim countries have a unfavorable opinion of the U.S., with 14 percent saying Muslims hold a favorable view.

But the poll indicates Americans seem to be split on whether such negative opinions by Muslims matter. Fifty-three percent of those questioned say they think Muslim views of the U.S. matter a great deal or a moderate amount, with 47 percent saying that Muslim opinions of the U.S. don't matter very much or at all.

The poll's release comes just hours before the president flies to Saudi Arabia for meetings with King Abdullah. Following the stop in Saudi Arabia, Obama heads to Egypt, where Thursday he'll deliver a long-awaited speech on relations between the United States and the Muslim world. At a town hall in Turkey earlier this year, the president delcared that "the United States is not, and will never be, at war with Islam."

Americans seem to agree with the president: 62 percent of those surveyed say they don't think the U.S. is at war with the Muslim world, with 36 percent indicating that the country is at war with Muslim countries. Those numbers have remained stable since CNN's 2002 poll.

But the poll suggests that six out of ten think that the Muslim world considers itself at war with the U.S.

"The feeling seems to be mutual. We distrust Muslims. They distrust Americans. Views of Americans have not changed very much over the past seven years. There are some indications that Muslims' views of Americans have improved a bit since Barack Obama took office, but they are still not positive," says CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted May 14-17, with 1,010 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

Filed under: CNN Polls
soundoff (124 Responses)
  1. Expat American

    How many polled are Republicans and Christian Conservatives, etc....

    Many diehard Palin supporters believe only what they hear from Fox news and co. in regards to the Muslim world. Many have never traveled, worked, or lived abroad and don't even have passports. So this comes as no surprise. Remember from the campaign trail that one of the strongest Republican/Conservatives arguments is that President Obama is a Muslim....The response of global news sources correctly asserted that their viewpoint was pretty stupid and the world laughed at them..but then again so what if President Obama were a Muslim? A Christian American President has caused the death of hundreds of thousands of women and children.

    For the most bigoted of this isolationist 1950’s mindset group, it's simply easier to categorize things into a manner that is easiest understood, however stupid and wrong, so as to avoid the realization that the United States is not the center of the world and that Jesus wasn't an American.

    June 2, 2009 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  2. Anonymous

    Publishing polls like this certainly does not help the cause for a more peaceful relationship between your country and the Muslim world. Some would take polls such as this and use it as propoganda to say that the US really has not changed its position and is still their enemy. Headlines like this instigate and promote distrust which is in direct oposition to what your President is sincerely trying to do..

    June 2, 2009 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  3. Tim S

    The US had 8 years of fear-mongering leaders telling us to watch our neighbors....report suspicious people. ...keep looking over your shoulder....they're trying to get you. Fear was used as justification for expanding government intrusion into our civil rights and privacy. Fear. Fear. Fear. Don't trust anyone.... Hey, guess what? The whole world isn't out to get us. Maybe a little time with a new attitude from our leaders can help restore some sanity. I hope so.

    June 2, 2009 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  4. AnnMM

    Count me in as an unfavorable vote. I'm not a proponent of any theocracy, regardless of the religion.

    June 2, 2009 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  5. Jeff in Virginia

    What do any of you expect? We spent the last 8 years operating under fear fear fear and cowboy diplomacy.

    June 2, 2009 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  6. Unhappy Dem

    I wonder why.Duhhh

    June 2, 2009 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  7. Jason P

    It doesn't surprise me that a lot of Americans don't hold a favorable view of Muslims and Muslim countries. I bet not even 10 percent of those questioned could tell you the difference between Muslims and Arabs.

    I think a lot of the issues surrounding Americans' views of the Middle East and Muslims come out of the terminology of the "War on Terror" like "Axis of Evil" and "weapons of mass destruction."

    It's funny that Muslim favorability of the U.S. is actually higher than our view of them. For the 36% of those that believe the U.S. is at war with Muslim countries, they need to be relegated to a corner of the U.S. with no real importance (Wyoming?) or at least re-educated on the subject.

    June 2, 2009 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  8. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Thanks to our new President, we're not hated as much across the Muslim world. Some damage that the Bush administration has caused can not be undone. The Arab newspapers still post grotesque images of Abu Ghraib on their front pages. And people want the release of more photos? Get real! Those photos tarnish our image, are being used as propoganda and places our troops in imminent danger. It will take time to mend the wounds that have been inflicted upon the Muslim world by the U.S., but the President is on the right path of setting things straight.

    June 2, 2009 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  9. Anonymous

    Though the vast majority of muslim nations are peace-lovers, a portion of them are, perhaps, unknowingly harborin' terroristic tacticians targetin' the non-muslim world. To ferret out these trojans would not be easy and we opine that terrorism may provide either inspirations or ideas to racistic rancors in non-muslim nations like Australia, for example, which has seen its several of misguided and irate youths assaultin' Asians, for the past few years. Now, those tidings have not hit the radar screen in the west, but sooner or later when it reaches gargantuan proportions, or a critical number, racism probably will vie with terrorism for the top honors. It is only a matter of time.

    June 2, 2009 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  10. TCM

    haha...and that's news?

    No wait, here's the eye opener for liberals. Just wait until Obama demands Israel's leader to step down...and then tightens up his friendly status with the muslim nation....soon, people will realize two things; he's not a US citizen, and he's not a Christian.

    June 2, 2009 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  11. Alan

    Ummm...What would fuel such an unfavorable view? Maybe it is:

    – The fact that women can't vote
    – The fact the women can't drive
    – The fact that if a woman is caught speaking to a nonrelative she can be beaten
    – The fact that a grown man can marry an 8 year old girl

    Just a few points to ponder when you hear Obama and Clinton proclaim how wonderful Islam is.

    June 2, 2009 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  12. Anonymous

    Publishing polls like this certainly does not help the cause for a more peaceful relationship between your country and the Muslim world. Some would take polls such as this and use it as propoganda to say that the US really has not changed its position and is still their enemy. Headlines like this instigate and promote distrust. That is in direct contrast to what your President is sincerely trying to do.

    June 2, 2009 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  13. Larry

    What a meaningless poll ...

    Must be a slow day for news ...

    Just a pile of numbers

    Most Americans don't know what a Muslim is ...

    Personally ... I hold little value in any person that personifies a fake God, and uses that fake God to justify their actions

    As in ... George Bush claiming that God spoke to him, and was somehow guiding his behavior over the years

    Talk about not taking responsibility for ones own actions ...

    Get A Life ...

    June 2, 2009 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  14. Ryan

    Why hasn't CNN reported on the muslim that just shot 2 servicemen here in the states???!?!?!?

    Why??? What doesn't CNN want you to know??

    June 2, 2009 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  15. MatthewDetroit

    That is good.
    Despite the brain washing by barack obama we have extremists who will try to kill us. Those same extremist treat women like animals and possessions. Our side tries to defend them and say it is okay. It is not okay and never will be. Those same extremist come to this country and have no loyalty to the United States. With out that loyalty they should not be allowed to be here.
    At least most Americans see muslims as dangerous. They have fought as terrorists for 1000 of years and will continue to do so.
    But the new Homeland Security Chief does not think they are terrorist. She thinks they are just misunderstood...
    While Barack goes to the mideast to party with his people.
    Still NO solid proof that Barack is a citizen of the US and was even born here. The man is not a citizen of the US and is not our president.

    June 2, 2009 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  16. phoenix86

    From CNN:

    President Barack Obama has proclaimed June to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.

    This will make the muslim world love him even more....

    Meanwhile, N. Korea and Iran continue to develop nuclear weapons.

    Time to impeach Obama.

    June 2, 2009 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  17. Edward

    Blah, blah, blah....

    Why does crap like this even make the news? Who cares what a poll of Americans think about other countries? Most Americans are idiots that care little beyond who won American Idol. Topics such as international politics is outside of their intelligence capacity.

    June 2, 2009 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  18. Pete

    The hatred for Islam is based on fear, ignorance, and constant negative coverage of anything Islamic. I know several Muslims through my years of working in construction engineering, and have never had any problems. They are regular folk that want to live the good life, raise their children, and be safe from the problems that have beset their native lands. There are so many variations of Islamic faith that knowing which ones are the jihadists can be difficult. The average American is too lazy to sit down and research the subject, so they are easily influenced by the biases of the media. The American people need to look into the background of the jihad and learn who is the enemy and who is not. Only then can we understand the complexity and depth of the interaction between us and the Arab world.

    June 2, 2009 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  19. Matthew

    God willing, the infidel muslims will not tear down the Christian faith in this country. Praise be to God, let Christianity ring, and let all Muslim terrorist and deviants be sent to haides

    June 2, 2009 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  20. Sniffit

    FEAR FEAR FEAR!!!!!! Thanks Bush & Cheney. The strategery is simple: give Americans a big bad bogeyman arch-nemesis to fear and loathe while trying to set yourself up as the great savior and protector...and voila, instant perma-power. I expect that this poll will be viewed by the GOP as "encouraging." Of course, if/when we fix it, they'll just find some other group to castigate. Hurray for the politics of division!

    June 2, 2009 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  21. kris

    Please read India's history if you want to get a broader picture of what fundamental muslims are. Tyranny inflicted by fundamental muslims existed since the very birth of that religion. Muslim invasion of India that started about 2000 years ago provides enough insights about what religion fundamental muslims practise. If you give them an inch, they will permeate through your society and take control of your society very soon.

    June 2, 2009 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  22. awaitingliberalizationbyCNN

    The whole muslim religion is based on the eradication of "non-believers". This is why Hussein Obama's efforts to placate and accomodate them are a foolish effort doomed to failure at the cost of many more American lives. And he says Cheney is wrong. Sheer arrogance and liberal stupidity.

    June 2, 2009 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  23. Pee Wee

    I lived in Turkey between 1989 and 1991. My wife an I thoroughly enjoyed it. The citizens were very nice people and as friendly as you'll find anywhere. American were not hated, in fact we were held in fairly high esteem by most. However, Turkey's government is based on the western model. It is a democracy and they have multiple parties.

    That being said, of the 22 conflicts going on around the world right now, 21 involve Muslims. You do the math.

    Of course, it's probably Bush's fault.

    June 2, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  24. webdave

    It seems like the US always has a boogey man to fear.

    We feared Native Americans in the late 19th Century and took their land, we feared the Germans and Bolsheviks, then the Communists, and now Muslims.

    Why are we so fearful? Could our fear of others be the main reason we're such a war loving people? Who benefits from Americans being so afraid of foreigners?

    What will it take for us not to be afraid of others? The media, including CNN, doesn't help when the only time we see Muslims/Arabs on tv is when they are brandishing AK-47s, shaking their fists, shouting, and burning the American flag.

    Imagine if the media showed what life was really like in Muslim countries? I think we'd be shocked to find they aren't that much different than we are.

    If we learned anything from the Cold War, and it seems we didn't, it's that our perceived enemies really aren't nearly as scary as our imaginations lead us to believe.

    The majority of people in the world want to be loved and helpful to others. That's an encouraging notion.

    June 2, 2009 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
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