U.S. Public Opinion about Arab States:
Examining the Differences in National Images


Lee B. Becker, Ayman Nada, Allan McCutcheon, Olena Kaminska and Tudor Vlad


A foreign country's image among the U.S. public can be expected to have impact on U.S. foreign policy, as elected officials and their appointees in the foreign policy establishment view public opinion as one of the constraints on their choice of po licy options. 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. The paper begins with a conceptual overview of the literature on public images of foreign countries. The paper then examines findings from a unique set of polls conducted in the U.S. by the Gallup Organization that tracks the affective component of National Image of a variety of countries from around the world. Among these countries were six 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. The analysis suggests that a positive national image is dependent on an understanding of the complexity of the country’s social fabric. Such an understanding is dependent on complex and complete media coverage.

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