People from the Arab world who travel to the West are more likely to have positive feelings about Western people, according to a study conducted by Karam Dana, the director of the Middle East Public Opinion Project at the University of Washington Bothell.
“Informed by theory, and based on empirical evidence, I argue that when one has traveled to the West or has family living in the West, there is the potential to create a positive image of Western people, even if it does not contribute to support for Western policies,” Dana writes in the study published recently in the peer-review journal Territory, Politics, Governance.
Arab Middle Easterners make a distinction between the people of the West and governments of the U.S. and Western Europe that represent them. It’s the foreign policies of the governments that contribute to and intensify negative feelings, not the culture, Dana says.
The study, “Anti-Western feelings in the Arab world and the role of exposure to the West: rethinking connections through public opinion” is the fourth paper Dana has published based on a survey he conducted in 2013 in Palestine. He hopes to conduct a similar survey of social, economic and political opinions next year and compare changes over the five-year period.
Dana recommends more investment in opportunities for travel and educational exchanges to build understanding.
“We are banning travel while empirical and theoretical findings suggest the total opposite – that increased travel tends to increase more harmony between the East and West,” Dana, an assistant professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences who also directs the American Muslim Research Institute, said.