Donald Trump’s visit to Riyadh saw a significant boost in American public opinion about relations between the US and Saudi Arabia, a recent survey shows.
The US president chose Saudi Arabia as his first foreign travel destination since taking office. The two-day visit, which started on May 20, made headlines around the world and saw the signing of some $380 billion in business and defense deals.
Three weeks prior to the visit, only 36 percent of Americans thought that Saudi Arabia is an “ally” or “friendly” with the US, according to the weekly Economist/YouGov poll. That edition of the poll, covering 1,500 adults in the US, was conducted between April 29 and May 2.
But a poll held at the same time as Trump’s high-profile visit to Saudi Arabia — during which the US president spoke of his “Saudi friends” and “gracious hosts” — found that US public opinion had improved.
The later poll, conducted on May 20-23, asked the same question and found that some 44 percent of Americans consider Saudi Arabia an “ally” or “friendly” toward the US.
By comparison, 17 percent consider Saudi Arabia “unfriendly,” only 11 percent said it was an “enemy” of the US, while 26 percent said they were not sure how to characterize the relationship.
Kailash Nagdev, managing director for YouGov in the Middle East and North Africa, said the presidential visit clearly had an impact on the results.
“The Trump visit has increased visibility for the region, which has resulted in an increased positive view of the region, especially Saudi Arabia, amongst the general population in the US,” Nagdev told Arab News. “Hence it’s important to keep such bilateral ties open in the future.”
The issue of Iran was high on the agenda during the two days of summits and meetings during Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia.
The president said in his speech that Iran was responsible for “much instability in the region.”
Trump said in Riyadh: “From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.”
The Economist/YouGov poll found that just 2 percent of American respondents consider Iran to be an “ally,” and 6 percent consider it “friendly” to the US. In contrast 29 percent perceive Iran as being “unfriendly” toward the US, while 41 percent consider it an “enemy.”