NEW YORK – Anti-American feelings are widespread in the Muslim world and extend to U.S. consumer brands, according to a report released Wednesday. It suggested the United States (search) burnish its image with a change in tone and by publicizing aid programs.
The United States should emphasize its development aid to Muslim countries rather than try to persuade Muslims to support U.S. policies in Iraq or in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a report by the Council on Foreign Relations (search), a nonpartisan group specializing in governmental policy issues.
The report, by private consulting firm Charney Research (search), is based on 14 focus groups conducted last December and January among college-educated men and women in Egypt, Morocco and Indonesia.
Anger at U.S. foreign policy and at the U.S. government dominated spontaneous reactions in all three countries.
Many young Muslims said they admired Usama bin Laden, while views of President Bush were uniformly negative. All focus group members rejected U.S. views of the war in Iraq, saying the United States invaded on a false premise to further its own regional goals.
Anti-Semitic stereotypes also were noted. Focus group members saw the United States and Israel as synonymous and estimated the proportion of Jews in the U.S. population at up to 85 percent; it is 2 percent.
The report found negative opinions of the United States are taking a toll on U.S. companies, and that amounts of U.S. aid were massively underestimated; not one person in any focus group knew the U.S. is the world's largest donor by dollar amount.
"Most Egyptians and Indonesians put U.S. support for their countries over 10 years in millions; the correct figures were $7.3 billion and $1 billion, respectively," the authors said.
When asked what they wanted from the United States, focus group members said respect and aid to develop as their countries choose.
The Council on Foreign Relations, founded in 1921, is a nonpartisan center for scholars dedicated to helping members and policy-makers better understand the world and governmental policy choices, according to its Web site. The council has headquarters in New York and an office in Washington, D.C.
Charney Research is a private consulting firm in New York that offers opinion polling and market research.