HomeCompaniesArab News / YouGov poll reveals huge US ‘knowledge gap’ on Middle East issues

Arab News / YouGov poll reveals huge US ‘knowledge gap’ on Middle East issues

21% believe that Agrabah, the fictional city from ‘Aladdin’, is part of Middle East

Dubai, 2 May 2017:

A wide-ranging poll of the US public has revealed a huge “knowledge gap” when it comes to the Arab world, with 81 percent of the respondents unable to point out the region on a map.

That was a key finding of an exclusive Arab News/YouGov poll, the results of which are published today to coincide with the Arab Media Forum in Dubai. 

An Arab News panel discussion on “The Arab Image in the West” was held on the second and concluding day of the forum, which examined ways of addressing the perception problem, and revealed the poll results.

The survey of 2,057 people in the US revealed an alarmingly low level of awareness about the Middle East and North Africa, but also a desire for more media coverage of the region.


When presented with three maps, only one of which accurately highlighted the geography of the Arab world, only 19 percent of the respondents could identify the correct image.

More than a fifth of respondents said Agrabah — the fictional city from “Aladdin” — is a real part of the Arab world. An even higher proportion — 38 percent — said they would be happy with a US travel ban on citizens of Agrabah should they be proven a threat. 

The “The Arab Image in the US” poll, conducted from March 17-21, found that 65 percent of respondents admitted to knowing little about the Arab world, with 30 percent having no interest in understanding the region further.

Over three quarters of the respondents said they would not consider travelling to the Arab world, with 39 percent saying the whole region is too dangerous to visit.

While almost eight in 10 said they follow international news, of those only 24 percent tune into news about the Arab world. 

“Many always felt there was a misconception or misrepresentation when it comes to the Arab image in be US; what this study does however is tell us how high the level of ignorance is,” said Faisal J. Abbas, editor in chief of Arab News. 

The poll findings do however suggest an opportunity for those gathered at the Arab Media Forum in Dubai, Abbas pointed out. Half of the respondents to the survey said US media do not provide sufficient coverage of the Arab world, with many saying they would like more social and cultural news from the region.

“There is clearly an opportunity for the media industry — in both the US and Middle East — to step up to the challenge,” Abbas said. “At a time when fake news is thriving, telling and investing in real, credible stories of the region is essential to solving the perception problem and closing the knowledge gap.”

Stephan Shakespeare, the chief executive of polling firm YouGov, said the findings come at a very significant time given global tensions and increased misunderstandings. 

“Whatever one’s political views are, everyone surely hopes for increased understanding between the peoples of the world and we hope that we, though our partnership with Arab News, will be able to contribute to better understanding.”

But Shakespeare also pointed to some “more hopeful” signs from the poll findings.

For example, the survey found that 63 percent of respondents believe Arab immigrants have made an effort to integrate themselves in US and Western societies.

The “The Arab Image in the US” poll follows a recent partnership between Arab News, the Middle East’s leading international English-language daily, and the globally-acclaimed online polling firm YouGov. The deal will see YouGov conduct regular polls relating to the Middle East and North Africa, which will help shed light on regional sentiment toward international events, as well as producing credible research on international opinion on Arab affairs.

The media partnership was officially announced at the Arab Media Forum (AMF) on May 2.


Established in 1975, Arab News is the Middle East’s leading English-language daily. Based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the newspaper is renowned for providing the Arab perspective on international affairs via its network of reporters, opinion writers and analysts. It is considered the newspaper of record on major Arab affairs for a large number of global media outlets, governments and academic institutions. It can be read online at www.arabnews.com

YouGov is one of the world’s leading market research companies, with offices throughout Europe, the US, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. With our global online panel, suite of syndicated products, and full spectrum of custom research solutions, we offer businesses a more accurate, more actionable portrait of what the world thinks. 

Bridget Gleeson, YouGov– [email protected]
Ben Flanagan, Arab News – [email protected]

© Press Release 2017

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