Cox Center Associate Director Discusses the Image of Arab Countries in U.S. Public Opinion

Egypt has enjoyed a more favorable evaluation by the U.S. population than other Arab countries during the 2001-2007 interval, Dr. Tudor Vlad told participants at the Egyptian American Intercultural Dialog in Atlanta in early April.

In addition, analysis of U.S. media shows that coverage of Egypt “consistently has been more complex than coverage of the other Arab countries that we included in our research,” Dr. Vlad, associate director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, told participants in an Egyptian American Intercultural Dialog in Atlanta in early April.

“Only with Egypt does the coverage include stories about the social life and fabric of the society.”

Dr. Vlad said that this is a suggestion that a positive image is dependent on an understanding of the complexity of the society. Such an understanding is dependent on complex and complete media coverage.

These were some of the conclusions of a collaborative study by scholars from the University of Georgia, Cairo University and University of Nebraska that examined the differences in national images of six Arab countries in U.S. public opinion and the media coverage of those countries.

The study examined findings from a unique set of polls conducted in the U.S. by the Gallup Organization that tracked the affective component of National Image of a variety of countries from around the world. Among these countries were Egypt and five other Arab countries and the Palestinian Authority. The analysis of the survey data was supplemented by a content analysis of the coverage of the Arab countries by the Associate Press wire.

The two-day program in Atlanta was organized by an American NGO, Hands Along the Nile Developments Services (HANDS) and by an Egyptian development organization, Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS).

Twenty-seven Egyptian and U.S. scholars and journalists participated in the program, which was sponsored by the Center for Conflict Management, Kennesaw State University, with other donors across the U.S., including the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Middle East Peace Education Program.

The session in which Dr. Vlad was one of the presenters focused on the image currently portrayed by the media in Egypt and the United States of the other country and how these images contribute or not to strengthening mutual understanding.

The other two presenters were Dr. Linda Johnson, director of the Center for Conflict Management at the Kennesaw State University, and Dr. Hanan Yousef, Professor of Arab and International Media at Ain Shams University.

Other topics at the conference were challenges faced by traditional media sources in portraying accurate images of other cultures and the role of new and emerging media sources in impacting relations between Middle East and the West.

“I think this program has been successful not only due to the quality of the presentations, but also because it has brought together people that might work together in the future on a variety of projects,” said Jennifer Cate, executive director of HANDS in a closing statement.