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 ...

BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images
BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images

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:

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 

Twitter: @EliasGroll

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.