American Ports and the United Arab Emirates:
Media Influence on National Image


Lee B. Becker and Ayman Nada


Despite the likely importance of U.S. public images of countries in shaping U.S. foreign policy, relatively little is known about the nature of those images and their origins. With that observation as a backdrop, this paper treats as a case study U.S. public opinion about the United Arab Emirates. The UAE had not been prominent in American foreign policy until 1990, when Saddam Hussein threatened both U.A.E. and Kuwait. In early 2006, the situation changed, as American media focused on the purchase by Dubai Ports W orld of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. The purchase would have given the company, owned by the government of U.A.E., control over several important commercial port operations in the U.S. In this paper, a secondary analysis of public opinion polls conducted during that time is combined with a content analysis of print and broadcast media. The analysis showed that the story, as it unfolded in the U.S. media, had a strong political frame. The public response to the story of the potential purchase of the U.K. firm controlling port management by DP World was largely negative. Attention to these stories was associated with this public response in a complex way that was greatly influenced by the partisan attitudes of the audience members.

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