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Obama's popularity may be down in US, but he's even less popular among Arabs

President Obama's popularity in the US has declined sharply this year and he's always been unpopular in Israel. But his numbers have plunged the most in countries that had high hopes for change in the Middle East.

By Staff writer / August 6, 2010

President Barack Obama attends a Democratic Party fundraising event in Chicago, August 5. Obama's popularity in the US has declined sharply this year, but he's even less popular among Arabs.

Jason Reed/Reuters

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President Barack Obama, who promised "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world" in a landmark speech in Cairo a little over a year ago, now finds his – and America's – image in the Middle East right where it's been for decades: mired in distrust.

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Overwhelmingly people in the Middle East reported frustrated perceptions that the US and President Obama exhibit favoritism toward Israel. It is widely believed that the US is either incapable of or unwilling to break the Israel-Palestine deadlock.

Right-wing commentators in the US may say Obama's an opponent of Israel, and polls in the Jewish state itself show he's deeply distrusted there (60 percent of Israelis polled this spring said Obama was "seeking to improve relations with Arab states at the expense of Israel"), but The Brookings Institution's annual poll of Arabic public opinion, released today, shows that Obama's approval rating has plunged in the region over the past year faster and further than anywhere else.

In the US, Obama's "favorable rating" has plunged from about 70 percent at the time of his election to about 44 percent today, according to Pollster.com's aggregate of major US polls. But the standing of the president who was once the world's darling has slipped globally as well, and nowhere is that more evident than in the Arab states.

The Cairo speech didn't unleash euphoria in the MIddle East, but it did seem to convince the Arab public that they were at least going to see something different.

Obama said then, while also staunchly defending Israel's right to exist, that Palestinians "endure the daily humiliations – large and small – that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."

Since then, settlement growth has continued despite Israel's promises of a temporary freeze.

The Brooking's poll, conducted with Zogby International in late June and early July in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and Jordan found that "positive" views of Obama among Arabs had slipped from 45 percent to 20 percent in the past year, and that his "negatives" had soared from 23 to 62 percent.

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