the Arab/Islamic World Sees the West-The 2002 Gallup Poll of 9 Predominantly
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 Quidafits. 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.
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.
the problems are awesome and deserve a mega-release.
from Gallup Organization, Inc.
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.
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:
First, we have the problem of rather despotic leaders with dubious
popular acceptance but who control the oil that the U.S. needs. The survey
is only partially helpful here; we do not get straightforward information on the
popular support enjoyed by the governments in the countries studied. Since most
of these countries do not hold elections such information would have been
The oil-rich countries add special problems to their governments. Saudi Arabia's oil is the key to the present American life style. Following the price shock in 1973, the cash flow drives up prices and wages, technological development ceases, the motivation to educate one weakens. Since oil becomes cheaper while the price tag of technological development increases, dependence on the natural resource becomes a poverty trap. Per capita annual income in Saudi Arabia has plunged from 30,000 dollars in 1981 to under 8,000 today. Sixty-five percent of the rapidly increasing population is under 25 years of age, and unemployment prevails.
These are not material conditions that are conducive to a calm, peaceful existence. I sense a contradiction here between the economic facts and the Gallup finding that most Saudis feel that they are better off now than five years ago. Perhaps it would have been more informative to ask if they feel more frustrated today than five years ago.
Second, we have the challenges of a terrorism that has its popular
base in countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where governments but not the
broad masses are relatively friendly to the West. Here the survey is helpful
and has unique data. We learn that the majorities in the Islamic publics do not
condone the September 11 attacks and that many do not believe that Arabs were
behind them. But we did not get the critical figure: the numbers who believe the
attacks were justified and also believe that Arabs (or Muslims) carried them out.
Such numbers is the best indicator of support for terrorism, particularly if it
grossed to figure of thousands of persons.
Third, there is a real enemy of the United States, the regime in Baghdad.
Here the survey contributes nothing.
Fourth, the United States difficulties of acting as a broker in the
bloody conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The fourth element
begins to dominate this equation. There have recently been few news stories
about Osama bin Laden, little attention to Saddam Hussein, modest concern over
oil. The main talk in and about the region is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It is only mentioned in passing in the Gallup survey. (Incidentally, neither is
the other big conflict in the region between the nuclear powers Pakistan and
While Europe mainly views the conflict in terms of an Israeli war of occupation, large segments in the U.S. see it as an integral part of the campaign against global terrorism. The rallying cry "United We Stand" that echoed after September 11th has to very many been enlarged to "United We Stand with Israel." The majority of opinion in the U.S. seems to draw a direct parallel between American efforts against Osama bin Laden and Sharon's efforts against Yassir Arafat. This rift between US and Europe in viewing the Middle East had not emerged as a serious issue when the Gallup study was conceived, and we shall not blame Gallup for ignoring it. But it adds to the problems of the American policy makers.
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.
will take up one legacy from history and two from classical social science for
future studies of this kind.
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).
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
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
"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."
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.
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.