WASHINGTON — Recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa have improved Americans' opinions of Arabs, with Egyptians viewed in an especially positive light since their successful revolt against Hosni Mubarak, a poll showed Monday.
Fifty-six percent of Americans surveyed this month said they have a favorable view of Arab people in general, while 70 percent voiced positive opinions about Egyptians, the University of Maryland poll showed.
The Egyptian people's ratings put them just below the 73-percent favorable rating that Americans give Israelis, according to the study, released on the eve of a forum on relations between the United States and the Islamic world.
When the 802 poll respondents were asked if the popular uprisings in the Arab world had influenced their opinions of Arabs, 39 percent said they felt more sympathetic toward the Arab people since the revolts began and just six percent said they felt less sympathy for them.
Three times more Americans think the revolts in the Arab world are about ordinary people seeking democracy than believe they are about Islamists aiming to seize power, the poll said.
While some officials have voiced fears that the changes in the Middle East could harm US interests in the region, nearly six in 10 Americans said they would back the moves toward greater democracy even if it meant a country would be more likely to oppose US policies, the survey showed.
"Most Americans are cheering the move toward more democracy, even if this might pose some challenges for the US," said Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), which helped conduct the survey.
The findings were released on the eve of the US-Islamic World Forum, an annual conference that since 2004 has brought together American and Arab-world experts to discuss US relations with Muslim countries and communities.
The conference is being held for the first time in the United States.
Among speakers at the forum will be Qatar's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Ahmad Bin Abdullah Al-Mahmoud and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, both of whom will address a gala dinner on Tuesday.
Other speakers at the forum, which ends Thursday, include former US National Securty Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, and US Senator John Kerry.