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Why Is Rouhani’s Popularity Plummeting in the Middle East?

Why Is Rouhani’s Popularity Plummeting in the Middle East?

Bangladeshis think Iran is super, but among other countries, especially in the Middle East,  animosity runs high toward Iran, according to Pew Research Center.

A Pew survey released Wednesday showed that fellow Middle Easterners do not think as highly of regional neighbor Iran since Hassan Rouhani became president. In Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey, the percentage of respondents who viewed Iran favorably precipitously declined between 2008 and 2014:

In Lebanon, opinions on Iran remained deeply divided. According to Pew, 87 percent of Lebanese Shiites like Iran but 88 percent of Sunnis there don’t. Among countries with citizens who think Iran is OK, Bangladesh leads the way:

Overall the world doesn’t show Iran much love, not a shocking revelation. But what may surprise some folks is how poorly Rouhani was perceived in his own backyard. Although his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reviled in the West, largely thanks to his unabashed anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, Rouhani has emerged as something of a beloved figure for Westerners eager to find a self-described reformer in power in Tehran eager to do business with the West. But Western adoration has done nothing for Rouhani’s popularity ratings in his neighborhood.

Why the likeable Rouhani suffered such a likeability gap with the pugnacious Ahmadinejad is something of a puzzle. The rise in antipathy toward Rouhani occurred mostly in countries paying dearly for Syria’s civil war, which Iran helped fuel through its proxy, Bashar al-Assad. An influx of Syrian refugees has poured into Egypt and Turkey and the fight has landed on the Turkey-Syria border.

As for opinion of the Iranian leader in Jordan, well, it couldn’t get much lower:   

The survey was conducted using national surveys with sample sizes of around 1,000 people in 40 countries. Interviews were carried out between March and into May. The margin of error varied by country and ranged between 3.2 and 4.5 percent.

 Graphics: Andrew Weiner/FP