Poll: Majority in the Middle East Want Assad Out

Saturday, 23 June 2012 07:09 AM

WASHINGTON — Overwhelming majorities in the Arab countries surrounding Syria want to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.

The only neighboring country surveyed that did not strongly endorse Assad's departure was Lebanon, where the public was split sharply along sectarian divides. Israel was not included in the report.

Eighty-nine percent of Jordanians and Egyptians, 88 percent of Tunisians and 67 percent of Turks want Assad to go, as do 53 percent of Lebanese. But while only small minorities every country except Lebanon want him to stay, 97 percent of Shi'ite Lebanese do. In contrast, only 20 percent of Sunnis and 28 percent of Sunnis do.

The numbers track closely with unfavorable views of Assad personally, which represents a dramatic shift. In a 2008 survey of Arab public opinion released by the Brookings Institution, Assad was the second most admired leader in the world, trailing only Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

However, even in places with huge majorities in favor of Assad's relinquishing power, there is division about how that should be accomplished.

Only in Tunisia -- with 63 percent and 61 percent support respectively -- do the majority of those surveyed want to see more sanctions applied or Arab military force used against Syria.

And while there is some support in Jordan, Egypt and Turkey for Arab-led action -- 28 percent, 47 percent and 29 percent respectively -- backing for Western-led intervention is barely in the double digits (10 percent and 11 percent for the first two) and only somewhat higher (24 percent) in Turkey.

The survey was conducted between mid-March and mid-April, before the most devastating civilian massacres were reported. The margins of error ranged between +/-3.8 percent to +/-5.2 percent in the various countries.

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