Agam's Gecko
Saturday, March 04, 2006

public opinion poll in Indonesia conducted by the Lembaga Survei Indonesia (LSI, the Indonesian Survey Institute is a respected independent polling organisation) for Terror Free Tomorrow, finds that opinions toward the United States have continued to improve in the year following the tsunami disaster. Last year's polling used the same questions, and was conducted in February 2005, more than a month after the tsunami. The 2006 poll measures attitudes to the end of January:
A new poll by Terror Free Tomorrow demonstrates that one year after the tsunami in Indonesia, the dramatic increase in Indonesian support for the United States and against Bin Laden has continued. American humanitarian aid to tsunami victims last year caused an overwhelming change of opinion in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country. The new nationwide poll throughout Indonesia reveals that this dramatic shift has not only been sustained, but has strengthened. The fact that more than a year after American help, Indonesians continue to appreciate America’s role is stunning proof of the sustained power of positive and substantial assistance to radically change Muslim public opinion.
Favourable opinion toward the US has gone from 15% in May 2003, to 34% in January 2005, and is pegged at 44% today. Very unfavourable opinions have declined in the same period from 48%, to 21% last year, and presently stands at 13%. Those who believed suicide terrorist attacks can ever be justified, have dropped from 27% after 9/11, to 9% last year, and 2% today. Support for Osama bin Hidin' has gone from 58% in 2003, to 23% last year, to 12% today. Though I don't understand how to square that last one with only 2% believing suicide terrorism can ever be justified.

The survey was conducted too early to have measured the effect of the recent confirmation by Indonesian officials, that al Qaeda has been directly involved in funding virtually all recent terror attacks in Indonesia.
Former al-Qaida No. 3 Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was captured in 2003, was personally involved in setting up the courier system, in which money was carried from Thailand to Malaysia and finally to Indonesia's Sumatra island, said Col. Petrus Reinhard Golose of Indonesia's counterterrorism task force.
I wonder if Osama could have managed 12% if this information had been widely known at the time the polling was done.

I didn't do any scientific polling in Aceh during my time there in January, but my anecdotal experiences talking to lots of people about these issues led me to believe that America's image in Aceh is pretty darn good. I did find fairly strong anti-American attitudes with one of our neighbours, but then he's been that way as long as I've known him, about 15 years. And, as I suspect in many cases, it really stems from his hatred of Israel and Jews. When you have someone who asserts that Jews have no religion, don't believe in God, because the word for Jew -- Yahudi -- actually means someone with no religion or God, there really isn't much to work with. On the other hand, jackets and baseball caps emblazoned with "USS Lincoln" were much in evidence walking around town, and I heard much praise from people who had seen American compassion up close (and no looking around to see who might overhear, either). Aceh is the most strongly Islamic part of the entire country.

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