Support for terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah has slipped across the Middle East, according to a poll released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project.
The survey was conducted in April and May 2014 (before the ISIL offensive in Iraq) among 14,244 respondents in 14 countries with significant Muslim populations.
Hezbollah is seen unfavorably in almost every Middle Eastern country. It does not poll much better in Africa or Asia, Pew found.
In its home country of Lebanon, 59 percent have an unfavorable view of the Shiite organization. Not surprisingly, 88% of Lebanese Sunni and 69% of its Christians disapprove of the party/terrorist group.
Still, 86% of the country’s Shia approve of Hezbollah.
Citizens of majority-Sunni countries across the region largely disapproved of Hezbollah, including Egypt (83%), Jordan (81%), Turkey (85%), and Tunisia (53%).
Negative opinions of the group have risen dramatically since 2007, the year after the month-long war between Israel and Hezbollah. In 2007, only 41% of Egyptians and 44% of Jordanians disapproved of the organization.
Since then, brutal sectarian fighting has broken out across the Middle East between Shiites and Sunnis. The violence has been especially bloody in Syria, where Hezbollah has openly sent thousands of fighters to support dictator Bashar Assad in his fight against Sunni rebels.
Most Palestinians (55%) see the group negatively. The Gaza Strip (69%) is much more hostile to Hezbollah than the West Bank (46%).
Israeli Arabs are actually less opposed to Hezbollah than Gazan Palestinians, with only 65% disapproving of the organization.
Hamas’s favorability ratings are only marginally better. In Turkey, whose government supported the Mavi Marmara ship which tried to reach the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, 80% disapprove of the group.
Egypt (61%), Jordan (61%), and Lebanon (65%) all are heavily anti-Hamas. Somewhat paradoxically, 55% of Lebanon’s Shia have a favorable view of the Sunni group.
The group doesn’t do any better among the Palestinians for whom it purports to fight — but, paradoxically, Hamas is far more unpopular in the Gaza Strip (63%) it dominates than in the Palestinian Authority-run West Bank (47%).
Its support has dropped among Palestinians since it forcibly took over the Gaza Strip. In 2007, Hamas enjoyed a 62% favorable rating, which fell to only 35% in 2014.
Negative opinions of Hamas have grown 12% in Tunisia over the past year, and 8% in Egypt.
Of all the countries surveyed, Palestinians were the most likely to support suicide bombings against civilian targets “in order to defend Islam from its enemies.” Sixty-two percent of Gazans said it was often or sometimes justifiable, while 36% of West Bank residents said the same. Bangladeshi Muslims were also somewhat supportive of suicide bombings.
The Pew survey found that support for suicide bombings has fallen sharply since 2001.
Support for al-Qaeda is low across the Middle East, with Israel (97%) and Lebanon (96%) showing the highest levels of disapproval.
The Palestinians are the most supportive of al-Qaeda among all groups surveyed, with 25% seeing the organization in a favorable light.
The study also found that concern about Islamic extremism is high across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. The levels of concern are on the rise.