The Gap between Public Opinion and Official Policy in the Arab World


Tamara Kharroub

Deputy Executive Director & Senior Fellow

Arab Center Washington DC

Dana El Kurd

Non-resident Senior Fellow

Arab Center Washington DC

Headshot of Shibley Telhami

Shibley Telhami

Anwar Sadat Professor of Peace and Development and Director of the Critical Issues poll

University of Maryland


Headshot of Khalil E. Jahshan

Khalil E. Jahshan

Executive Director

Arab Center Washington DC

Event Summary

On July 10, 2018, Arab Center Washington DC (ACW) released the results of the 2017-2018 Arab Opinion Index conducted by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS) in Doha, Qatar. Dana El Kurd, Researcher at ACRPS, presented the findings. Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, and Tamara Kharroub, Assistant Executive Director and Senior Fellow at ACW, served as discussants. ACW Executive Director Khalil Jahshan moderated the discussion.

The 2017-2018 Arab Opinion Index surveyed 18,830 respondents in 11 Arab countries (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Tunisia), between December 2017 and March 2018. This annual public opinion survey is the largest of its kind in the Arab world. Questions probed a number of issues regarding the quality of life in the Arab world; assessment of US foreign policy in the Arab world; attitudes toward the Palestinians issue, democracy and political participation; religion and religiosity and their connections to political life; intra-Arab relations; and opinions about the so-called Islamic State (IS).

The Executive Summary of the findings can be found here

Below are some key quotes by the panelists who analyzed the results and identified salient findings:

    • “We have a firm belief that Arab public opinion matters. So when countries like the United States rely on regime rhetoric or the opinions of the political elite to make decisions, they will not be able to construct effective long term policy.” – Dana El Kurd
    • I don’t think anyone disputes the fact that Palestine remains part of the Arab identity. I believe that. I don’t just think that people are saying it. The real question is, is it a priority enough for it to matter? Will people act on it? Will they pressure their governments if their governments deviate from it?” – Shibley Telhami
    • “This gap between democratic aspirations and political efficacy, as the findings show, is problematic: when there is no faith in achieving change through the political process and no avenues for expression, we begin to see increase in violence, we see a vacuum exploited by external state and non-state actors, and we see extremist ideologies grow.” – Tamara Kharroub



Tuesday July 10, 2018