U.S. Pew foundation’s opinion poll says Custodian of the Two Mosques tops Muslim world leaders in terms of popularity

King Abdullah selection to top list of Muslim leaders’ popularity, world appreciation for his initiatives hailed

Saudis warmly welcome opinion poll outcome, stress historic role played by King Abdullah in regional, world arenas

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has topped the leaders in the Muslim world in terms of popularity in a public opinion poll conducted recently by Pew Research Center.

The majority of those who participated in the poll chose King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz as the most popular Muslim Leader who has earned confidence as regards his capability to take proper decisions and steps pertaining to the international causes.

The Center said it is the second time that King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz tops in the list of most popular leaders in Polls conducted by the Center. He also clinched the top position in a Poll carried out by the Center in 2007.

The Center's finding in the Poll conducted in Mid-2009, covered more than 25 Muslim countries including eight Arab countries through direct interviews with a group of 1,000 persons in every country chosen by the Center under the supervision Princeton Group for research and statistics.

Prominent dignitaries in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia today lauded the selection of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques as the Islamic world's most popular and supportive personality for the second time in a row.

They considered the plebiscite as a confirmation of the world's appreciation of the Kingdom's position and the king's initiatives and an honor for whoever belongs to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

They said placing the king first of Islamic leaders also confirms the Kingdom's success in giving the Kingdom a renowned status not only in the Arab and Islamic worlds but also in the world at large through a package of political, economic, social and humanitarian positions and initiatives.

They pointed out that the selection also embodies the distinction of King Abdullah as a statesman of the first class.

They cited some of the King's scientific and economic achievements in the Kingdom.

They attributed the prudence and far-sightedness of the monarch to his early initiation by his father late King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman as a true Muslim and citizen.

They are Prince Faisal bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Secretary General of Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Charity, Abdulrahman Al-Jeraisi, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Commercial and Industrial Chamber of Riyadh; Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkareem Al-Isa, Minister of Justice, Dr. Mohammed bin Ali Al Hayaze'a, Rector of the University of Jazan, Dr. Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, Chairman of Human Rights Commission, Dr. Husham bin Mohammed Nadhrah, Director General for Health Affairs in Riyadh Region.

The new survey by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project, conducted May 18 to June 16, finds that confidence in Barack Obama's foreign policy judgments stands behind a resurgent U.S. image in many countries. Belief that Obama will "do the right thing in world affairs" is now nearly universal in Western countries, where lack of confidence in President Bush had been almost as prevalent for much of his time in office. In France and Germany, no fewer than nine-in-ten express confidence in the new American president, exceeding the ratings achieved by Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel in their own countries.

In Asia, optimism about Obama is almost as extensive with 85% of Japanese and 81% of South Koreans expressing confidence in the American president, and only somewhat lower percentages expressing that view in India (77%) and China (64%). In Brazil, 76% have confidence in Obama, as do most Argentines (61%), despite their generally skeptical view of the U.S. as expressed in this and earlier surveys.

Even in some countries where the U.S. remains unpopular, significant percentages nonetheless say that they think Obama will do the right thing in international affairs. In Egypt and Jordan, sizable numbers have confidence in him - 42% and 31% respectively. This represents a three-fold increase compared with opinions about President Bush in 2008. But in Pakistan and the Palestinian territories, ratings of Obama are only marginally better than the abysmal ratings accorded Bush.

Again, Israel stands alone as the only country where Obama does not engender more confidence than did President Bush.

And only about one-in-three Russians (37%) voice confidence in the new president, although this is still a considerably better rating than Bush received in 2008 (22%).

In most countries where opinions of the U.S. have improved, many say that Obama's election led them to have a more favorable view of the U.S. This admission is most apparent in Western Europe, Canada and Japan.

In Indonesia, where opinion of America improved dramatically, no fewer than 73% say that his election bettered their opinion of the U.S. However even in countries where there was little or no upswing in the U.S.'s ratings, many people say that Obama's election has led them to think more favorably of the U.S. For example in Egypt and Turkey, where America's favorable ratings remain very low, as many as 38% in both countries say they have better opinions of the U.S. because of Obama. However, fewer than one-in-ten (9%) in Pakistan express that view.

More generally, analysis of the survey finds that views of the U.S. are being driven much more by personal confidence in Obama than by opinions about his specific policies. That is, opinions about Obama personally are more associated with views of the U.S. than are judgments of his policies that were tested in the poll.

The polling in the Muslim world took place around the time of President Obama's Cairo speech. In some countries, interviews took place both before and after the speech, providing some gauge of the effect of Obama's remarks on his image and opinions of the U.S. more broadly. In Turkey a sufficient number of interviews were conducted before and after the speech to allow for an analysis of how much impact it had on public opinion. This analysis suggests that the speech had little measurable impact on views of the U.S. or Obama himself.

However, the pre-post comparisons were rudimentary ones that could only have detected a major swing in public opinion.

In Israel and the Palestinian territories full surveys were conducted both before and after the Cairo speech. A pre-post analysis among both publics suggests that Obama's June 4 speech had a more negative impact on attitudes toward America among Israelis than it had a positive one among Palestinians. Before the speech, 76% of Israelis questioned had a favorable view of the U.S., but after the speech that rating fell to 63%. Similarly, confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs slipped from 60% pre-speech to 49% post-speech.

Among Palestinians, in contrast, overall ratings of the U.S. and Obama improved but only marginally (+5 percentage points), a difference that is not statistically significant. However, one apparently positive consequence of the speech on Palestinian public opinion was observed in the survey. The number of Palestinians thinking that Obama would consider their country's interests when making international policy rose from 27% to 39%, following the Cairo speech.

Also of Note:

* Lebanese Sunnis are more confident in Obama than are either Christians or Shia. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Sunni Muslims in Lebanon say they have at least some confidence in Obama, compared with 46% of Christians and just 26% of Shia Muslims.

* Brazilians increasingly view China, a fellow member of the BRIC group (Brazil, Russia, India and China), as a partner. Nearly half of Brazilians (49%) now see China as a partner, up from 34% in 2008.

* Opinions of the European Union remain fairly tepid in Britain.

* In fact, more Canadians (71%) and Americans (56%) than the British (50%) express favorable opinions of the EU.

* Views of the United Nations have improved in the United States, as well as in Britain and France. Currently, 61% of Americans say they have a favorable view of the U.N., compared with 48% in 2007.

* There is as much support for the free market in the Middle East as there is in Western Europe. And a higher percentage of Palestinians (82%) than any Western European public agrees that people are better off in a free market economy, even though some are rich and some are poor.