CNN reports today on the just-released results of a very large-scale survey (more than 15,000 interviewees) of Saudi subjects conducted between August and November 2003.
The question asked was "What is your opinion of Osama bin Laden's sermons and rhetoric?" Unfortunately, the CNN news item is vague, informing us only that "almost half" of the respondents said they have a favorable view but that "fewer than 5 percent" think it a good idea for bin Laden to rule the country.
(These numbers, incidentally, tally well with those I proposed in a January 2002 article, "Who Is the Enemy?" where I distinguished between three types of Muslim support for militant Islam: the thousands willing to engage in violence, the 10-15 percent of all Muslims approving of that violence, and the 50 percent who do not accept militant Islam in its particulars but sympathize more with Osama bin Laden than the United States.)
The poll was overseen by Nawaf Obaid, called by CNN "a Saudi national security consultant" but known best to me as a Middle East Quarterly author whom I edited in 1999 (see his fine article, "The Power of Saudi Arabia's Islamic Leaders").
Comment: I have argued that there is a civil war underway in Saudi Arabia and that the pro-bin Laden outlook has "wide appeal" there, certainly "more support than the liberal approach Westerners would prefer to see succeed." Obaid's figures appear to indicate a plurality in favor of bin Laden but until more exact numbers are available, it is hard to draw conclusions. (June 9, 2004)