Islamic Anti-Americanism:
Stunningly Negative Attitudes in Gallup’s Mega-Release

“How the Arab/Islamic World Sees the West-The 2002 Gallup Poll of 9 Predominantly Islamic Countries”. A presentation by Frank Newport, Editor-in-Chief, The Gallup Poll, The Gallup Organization, and Richard Burkholder, Director of International Research, The Gallup Organization, on May 16, 2002 at a Joint AAPOR/WAPOR preliminary session at the their meeting in St Petersburg Beach, 8:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.: Majestic Ballroom (Sirata Beach). Moderator: Richard A. Kulka, Research Triangle Institute. Discussants: Hans L. Zetterberg, ValueScope, Stockholm, Sweden and Ellen Lust-Okar, Yale University

With no outside sources of funding, The Gallup Organization undertook nationwide surveys in as many predominantly Islamic countries worldwide as was feasible. A total of over 10.000 persons were interviewed at their homes in Morocco, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Indonesia. Multi-stage probability samples were used in all countries. Local market research firms carried out the interviews. The written report is titled “The Gallup Poll of the Islamic World”, and is dated February 2002 and available through Gallup Tuesday Briefing Service.

Of the European Islamic countries only Turkey is included, not Albania and Azerbaijan. The African Muslim countries south of Sahara were excluded. Sudan and Somalia would have been relevant as known locations of terrorists, but survey research is unfeasible there. In Central Asia, the former Soviet republics Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan with predominantly Islamic populations were not included. Several countries, such as Iraq and Egypt, would not allow the survey. India, which has a Muslim population of over 200 million, is excluded since they are in minority.

The project was intended to be a contribution to Western understanding of the Islamic world and to tell the American public about the image of the United States in this part of the world.


Hans L Zetterberg's prepared comments:

The Survey and Its Mega-Release

Let me begin by tipping my hat to the initiative of the Gallup Organization. It is a public service by a private firm that only can be mustered in America, and it is in the tradition of the Gallup Poll of Dr George Gallup's days.

The topics of the study are more comprehensive and complex than can be covered by a poll for the mass media. Only three of the chapters in the report cover standard topics in media polls: the perception of the September 11 bombings, the public acceptance of sending US military to Afghanistan, the popularity of President Bush. They would have been CNN-polls if conducted in the United States. They are all stunningly negative to the United States. [I have received the report from the Gallup Organization on condition not to cite its figures; those who did not attend its presentation with figures at the AAPOR/WAPOR conference will have to take my word for the stunningly anti-American attitudes.] The rest of the study does not fit the mold of a media poll. It is an attempt to get a comprehensive view of the publics of Islam society. In the word of Alec Gallup's  preface to the report it deals with "their personal lives, their values, the role of religion in their daily lives, and their use of the mass media". Only in this context can the shockingly negative views of the US be understood, and therefore it is all to the good the results were not presented piecemeal as media polls.  

An undertaking of this relevance, scope, and objectivity ought to have foundation support. I do not want to see this kind of study run by the US government in the way the USIA did during the Cold War and the State Department to a smaller extent does today. Agency bias seeps too easily into such surveys.

Lacking sponsors from media, foundations, and government, Gallup restricts circulation of the report of the study and recoups at least some of its costs by selling the research report to those who have an interest in the Muslim regions and ability to pay a few thousand dollars for 56 pages. What you get is a mega-release, a new kind of document communicating public opinion research. The mega-release is a social invention in its own right, similar to the kind made in the 1930s by George Gallup when he invented the financing of polls by subscriptions from newspapers. When all is forgotten about the survey we discuss today, the mega-release may survive and become one of the standard modes of financing and communicating future public opinion findings.

This mega-release does not look like a research report. It is written in smoother English, with a graphic design that attractively mixes text, tables, diagrams, and photos. It actually looks like a glossy annual report from a large corporation. To confirm this impression the report also includes a brief business history of The Gallup organization.

As a former editor and columnist I like this overgrown press release. It is very readable and hardly needs any editing. Of course, I would have preferred it to be free of cost like an ordinary press release. But in the media we are more accustomed than you think to issue checks for newsworthy stories.

As a former pollster I admire the execution of the study in difficult environments. The mix of closed and open questions, the translation into several local languages, the careful pre-testing of the questionnaire, the interviewer instructions, the sensitive coding of verbatim answers, are all admirable. But I would distance myself from its underlying position (made explicit in the preface) that the hard data of polling are essential in the study of societies. There are many other sources of good information about societies than polls. As pollsters we shall not be arrogant to other social scientists and historians. The Gallup report may be cited in some future books on the Islamic countries, but it will not have a prominent place in these books. Other sources of information will dominate.

As a former professor, however, I do not like the report. It never cites a scholar. For example, here is no mention of Samuel P Huntington’s ideas of The Clash of Civilizations. Nor of S.N. Eisenstadt's Fundamentalism, Sectarianism, and Revolution, which deals with the "Jacobin Dimensions of Modernity," into which Al Quida fits. Here is not found any international statistics from the region. The report has no historical comparisons, no contemporary comparisons, not even from other Gallup Organization studies from other regions. It is certainly not written in a format and mode of professors or experts. Actually I have a suspicion that those who constructed the technically so perfect questionnaire forgot to visit a library to check out books about Islam or go to the bookstore to buy a modern text such as John L Esposito & John O Voll, Makers of Contemporary Islam, Oxford University Press, 2001. (A relevant book by the Pakistani journalist, Ahmed Rashid, The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia, Yale University Press, 2002, had not appeared when the survey was planned.) It is also apparent that they did not have the time to consult and digest what the great classical writers of social sciences have said about Islam. Please correct me if I am wrong here.

Nevertheless I will gladly certify that this mega-release is a better input to mature choices of solutions by the American public and by the US government than the usual polls that are released piecemeal and designed to fit short news slots - with capricious reactions to the news of the day.

And the problems are awesome and deserve a mega-release.

USA's Problems are Larger than the Scope of the  Survey from Gallup Organization, Inc.

In the film "Lawrence of Arabia" Peter O'Toole rides around on a camel and organizes the Arabs' war of liberation from the Turks. He bears the white man's burden to unite the divided tribes. But Paris and London had other plans for the Middle East: their goal was domination, not independence.

Today the United States has reluctantly shouldered the role of the former colonial powers as protector and supreme judge in the region. This is a hazardous, if not impossible, position. At present the U.S. is trying to cope with several disparate elements in these countries. I will list four of them and ask how much help the Gallup survey gives:

To sum up all this, we must conclude that the main problems for the US are a great deal bigger than the Gallup coverage. More study is needed, as the phrase goes.

I will take up one legacy from history and two from classical social science for future studies of this kind.

A Historical Legacy: To Separate Religion and the Body Politic

The separation of politics and religion is fundamental to Christianity, but this is an alien concept in the Muslim world. Jesus says, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Matthew: 22, 19-21). And Paul teaches the first Christians in Rome that there is no power but that ordained by God. It is therefore necessary to subordinate oneself to the powers that be. "Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor" (Romans 13:7).

Christianity was not the faith of the powers that be until the year 380, when Theodosius made it the state religion of the Roman Empire. The struggle between the pope and emperor after the fall of western Rome reopened the question of their separate domains. Europe's religious wars that followed the Reformation led to the insight we have today. Only by separating religion from earthly instruments of power could Christianity excise the murderous prosecution that Christians had carried out on those of other faiths and, perhaps above all, on other Christians who professed faith in variations of the same religion. One of the most forward-looking parts of the American Constitution was the injunction against placing the state, its authorities, and its revenues at the disposal of religious communities.

This separation of state and church did not develop in the Muslim world. In contrast to Christianity, the monotheism that Mohammed proclaimed was victorious in the temporal world from the very beginning. Islam and its prophet had no need to separate temporal and sacred authorities since there was no earthly power that claimed to be superordinate.

In Islamic countries it is entirely legitimate for the imam to control politics. The American Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, discovered this when he in the beginning of the Cold War formulated the policy of containment of the Soviet Union. On the southern flank of the Soviet Union the political powers were weak and the religious powers were strong. He gave American support to the ayatollahs and mullahs in the great fight to contain "the godless rule of Stalin". This policy during the Cold War toward the Muslim countries to the south of the former Soviet has probably delayed the emergence of any body politic separated from religion in the region.

There is no originally Arabic word to describe a split between temporal and sacred power. We are told by Tomas Gür, a Swedish journalist and scholar, that the modern word la'ikiya is derived from the Greek laiko's - belonging to the people. But this word lacks currency among the general public in the Muslim world and is impossible to use in a survey questionnaire. A brave pollster may nevertheless ask "What do you think is most important, that our rulers follow the will of the people as revealed in elections, or, follow the will of Allah as revealed by the imams? "

Islam's originally unproblematic relation to secular power is today filled with conflicts. There are unsolved questions not only related to the separation of powers, but to democracy, the open society, religious freedom, and nationalism. The schisms that usually occur in all religions have also appeared in Islam, and one consequence has been that far from all Muslims in a country believe that the regime that rules the country in the name of Islam is the right one - see, for example, Saudi Arabia, where opposition to the regime is both sizable and violent.

The Legacy of Social Science 1: Max Weber on Fixed or Flexible Values

The very learned German sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920) sought the distinctive character of the modern Western world, compared with other civilizations. He distinguished between wertrational acts, that is, those based on firm values, and zweckrational acts, that is, those based on instrumentality. Modern Western mentality is mostly of the latter kind. In other civilizations fixed values have prevailed to a greater extent, a fact we today see evidence of in the conflicts between Islamic nations and the West. A culture that adheres to fixed values orders: "always follow the commandments!" In a culture with flexible values conduct is guided by the pursuit of happiness and an ethics of responsibility. It says: "Do what you want, but take responsibility for the consequences!" The latter stand is conducive to practical negotiations, calculations, and technical solutions in the spheres of business or politics.

Future surveys of Islamic nations would do well to follow Max Weber's lead and include a measure of the balance between fixed and flexible values. It is relatively easy to measure such instrumentality in surveys.

The West hopes that the growing Muslim minorities in Europe and the U.S. will develop a modern and secularized version of Islam. On an individual level this development is already visible in Europe and the U.S. With time, Muslim identity becomes more a matter of culture and ethnicity than of religion. But if Islam is to undergo a transformation such as the Christian Reformation or hive off a modern version such as Reform Judaism, the absence of pragmatic traditions will pose a major obstacle.

The fact that so many Muslim leaders in USA and Europe as well as in the Islamic countries depict secularization, modernity, and instrumentality as the great threats to Islam will not make this process easier.

The Legacy of Social Science 2: Lévy-Strauss on "Tolerance" in Islam

A major concern of he Gallup survey is the state of spirituality in the Islamic world. Is there an Islamic revival in our time? We do not know from the Gallup report since it does not include comparisons over time. In due course scholars may piece together past surveys with this one and give us firmer answers than the anecdotal evidence that Saddam Hussein nowadays builds more mosques than palaces. A difficulty for secondary analysis is the circumstance that the major division in the Muslim world between Sunni (mainstream Islam) and Shia (a more fundamentalist minority of Islam) is not reflected in the demographics of the questionnaires and has to be inferred from the country of the interviews. For example, in the Gallup survey, the more tolerant Sufi Muslims -- a subgroup of the Sunnis -- that dominate in Central Asia is not identified and separated from the militant Muslims in the deobandism tradition of the period of British rule of India (and Pakistan). The latter radical version of Islam, of which the Taliban are a well publicized part, is now organized around the madrasahs, the complexes of mosques and fundamentalist schools, which the Saudis of wahhabism persuasion in recent decades have founded and financed in Pakistan and Central Asia.

It happens that one of the West's foremost social scientists, the French anthropologist and the father of structuralism, Claude Lévi-Strauss, reported on Muslim tolerance from his research in Pakistan and neighboring regions. The Gallup findings do not contradict Levi-Strauss'. But he gives them a more profound interpretation.

I will end by two quotes from Lévi-Strauss' Tristes Tropiques from 1955, translated by John and Doreen Weightman for a publication by Jonathan Cape in 1973 and republished by Penguin Books in 1976 to became a social science bestseller. The quotes deal with Muslim toleration of the non-Muslim world. So far I know, they are the nearest in the classical social science literature to an analysis and explanation of Osama bin Laden's ideology. They ought to inform future research.

"Instead of speaking of genuine toleration, it would be more accurate to say that in so far as Moslems are tolerant, this attitude marks a perpetual victory over themselves. By recommending toleration, the Prophet put them in a state of permanent crisis, resulting from the contradiction between the universal significance of the revelation and the acceptance of the plurality of religious faiths."  
"This great religion is based not so much on revealed truth as on an inability to establish links with the outside world. In contrast to the universal kindliness of Buddhism, or the Christian desire for dialogue, Moslem intolerance takes an unconscious form among those who are guilty of it; although they do not always seek to make others share their truth by brutal coercion, they are nevertheless (and this is more serious) incapable of tolerating the existence of others as others (italics supplied). The only means they have of protecting themselves against doubt and humiliation is the 'negativization' of others, considered as witnesses to a different faith and a different way of life. Islamic fraternity is the opposite of an unadmitted rejection of infidels; it cannot acknowledge itself to be such a rejection, since this would be tantamount to recognizing that infidels existed in their own right."

Two circumstances seem to form the breeding ground of Osama bin Laden and Al Quida network. On the one hand are the material frustrations of young people due to the overpopulation, poverty trap, and Western media exposures. On the other hand are the spiritual dilemmas of Muslim toleration. The resulting battle call is not the overthrow of the United States government. The battle cry is simply to kill Americans, the intolerable others.

For Americans who love to be popular, this is a bitter pill. The Gallup survey comes close to explain it, but fails us on the finishing line.