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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Public Opinion and the Middle East

Public opinion is a significant influence on public policy, as we explain in our chapter on the topic. On the eve of President Obama's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanhayu, Gallup reports:
The large majority of Americans continue to view Israel favorably, while far fewer say they view the Palestinian Authority or Iran very or mostly favorably.

These data are from Gallup's annual World Affairs survey, conducted each February since 2001. The Feb. 2-5, 2012, survey asked Americans to rate a list of more than 20 countries. Iran ranked at the very bottom, the Palestinian Authority was several spots higher up, and Israel was much closer to the top of the list.
The majority of Republicans, independents, and Democrats view Israel favorably, though Republicans give Israel its most positive ratings. All three groups are much less likely to view the Palestinian Authority or Iran favorably.
Americans have consistently been more sympathetic to the Israelis than the Palestinians since Gallup started asking the question in 1988. Since the mid-2000s, Americans have become increasingly sympathetic to the Israelis, while the percentage sympathetic to the Palestinians has stayed the same. The percentage volunteering a neutral position or no opinion has declined in recent years. Republicans continue to be far more likely than independents or Democrats to sympathize with the Israelis.
JTA reports:
A poll showed 87 percent of registered American voters believe that Iran’s suspected illegal nuclear weapons program is a threat to the United States.

The poll commissioned by The Israel Project also found that 88 percent of respondents believed that Iran is a threat to Israel.
In addition, three-quarters of the poll’s respondents viewed Iran in a negative light and 82 percent of supporters backed sanctions to stop what Israel, the United States and many Western countries believe to be Iran’s nuclear program. Iran insists the program is for civilian purposes, although it has steadfastly resisted transparency.

Pollster Neil Newhouse, who oversaw the survey, said “it is clear that Americans see Iran as a threat to the West.”
“The overwhelming support for sanctions is a strong indication that voters believe the U.S. must take an active role in confronting this challenge,” he said.
The poll also showed that a majority of American voters continue to view Israel favorably, with 56 percent of respondents having warm feelings for the Jewish state.

Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research conducted the poll on Feb. 26-28; it has a margin of error of 3.46 percent.