CBS Poll: Middle East Conflict

Mideast Peace, Talks, Dove, Flags, Israel, Palestine AP

Americans view Secretary of State Colin Powell's nine-day trip to the Middle East as a failure, but that hasn't yet affected opinion of him or of President George W. Bush, according to the latest CBS News poll.

Americans also sympathize with Israel in the current fighting - and most Americans agree that Israel's military action is a fight against terrorism - but the public is now more doubtful about the role the United States government could play in trying to resolve the conflict.

THE POWELL TRIP
Secretary of State Colin Powell's mission to the Middle East, which ended without a ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, is viewed as mostly a failure by nearly half of Americans, while less than a third say it was a success.

POWELL'S MIDEAST TRIP
Success 31%
Failure 49

Most Americans think the cause for the failure may not be Powell's. They believe neither party - especially the Palestinians - wants peace enough to make real concessions. Three quarters of the public says Yasser Arafat doesn't really want peace, and half says this about the Israeli government. These views have not changed much from two weeks ago.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
Do They Want Peace Enough To Make Concessions?

Israeli GovernmentArafat
Yes

29%

20%


Israeli GovernmentArafat
No

51%

76%

CBSNEWS Polls


Powell's uncompleted mission has not reflected negatively on Colin Powell himself. His favorable rating is now 60%, compared with 59% just before President Bush sent him to broker a ceasefire in the Middle East.

More Americans now than before Powell's trip view establishing peace in the Middle East as an unrealistic goal for the U.S. 48% now say establishing peace in the Middle East is not something the United States can do something about; 45% say it is something the American government can do something about. Before Powell's trip, Americans thought the United States could help achieving peace in the Middle East.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
IS ESTABLISHING PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST SOMETHING

NowApril 2
U.S. can do something

45%

50%


NowApril 2
U.S. cannot do anything

48%

40%

CBSNEWS Polls


In fact, Americans remain divided as to whether the United State even has a responsibility to try to resolve the conflict in the Middle East. 45% say the U.S. has this responsibility, while 48% say it does not.

THE CONFLICT

Most Americans - 67% - continue to say Israel is justified in taking the recent military actions in response to the suicide bombings. And despite President Bush's urging Israel to withdraw its troops from the cities it occupied in the past two weeks, just 28% agree. A majority of Americans say Israel should maintain its presence in the areas it now occupies, and neither withdraw nor increase its military activities.

WHAT SHOULD ISRAEL DO NOW?
Withdraw 28%
Increase military activities 8
Maintain its presence 51

Israel has argued that its recent military action is fighting against terrorism from Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians, and that it is no different from the United States taking military action against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. 59% of Americans agree with this analogy.

IS ISRAEL'S FIGHT AGAINST YASSER ARAFAT THE SAME AS THE UNITED STATES' FIGHT AGAINST OSAMA BIN LADEN?
Yes 59%
No 32

Consequently, there may be somewhat increased pressure from the public for the government to support Israel publicly and to criticize Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians. 41% say the United States government should publicly support Israel, up from 37% two weeks ago. 38% now want the Unites States government to publicly criticize Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians, up from 32% two weeks ago.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
WHAT POSITION SHOULD THE U.S. TAKE WITH ISRAEL?

NowApril 2
Publicly support

41%

37%


NowApril 2
Publicly criticize

13%

10%


NowApril 2
Say nothing

32%

36%

CBSNEWS Polls


CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
WHAT POSITION SHOULD THE U.S. TAKE WITH ARAFAT?

NowApril 2
Publicly support

7%

8%


NowApril 2
Publicly criticize

38%

32%


NowApril 2
Say nothing

39%

40%

CBSNEWS Polls


Two weeks after Israeli troops began occupying certain West Bank cities, Americans remain more sympathetic with Israel than with the Palestinians, although there has been some increase in sympathy for the Palestinians. By 48% to 15%, Americans now sympathize more with Israel in the current dispute.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
WHO DO YOU SYMPATHIZE WITH MORE?

NowApril 2
Israel

48%

52%


NowApril 2
Palestinians

15%

10%


NowApril 2
Neither

16%

15%

CBSNEWS Polls


42% now favor the establishment of a Palestinian homeland in the occupied territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. 27% oppose it, and a third don't have an opinion one way or the other. Last December, 39% supported the establishment of a Palestinian homeland.

THE LEADERS

More people have formed an opinion about the two leaders in the Middle East in the past two weeks, although a majority is still withholding judgment on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Opinions about Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat are now 66% unfavorable to 3% favorable, compared with 53% and 2% respectively two weeks ago.

OPINIONS OF ARAFAT
Now 4/2
Favorable 3% 2%
Unfavorable 66 53
No opinion 31 45

OPINIONS OF SHARON
Now 4/2
Favorable 22% 18%
Unfavorable 21 16
No opinion 57 66


CONCERNS ABOUT THE IMPACT

By 55% to 7%, Americans think the recent escalation of violence in the Middle East has made terrorist attacks against Israel more, not less, likely. A third say it has made no difference. Two in five Americans say the current fighting between Israel and the Palestinians makes a terrorist attack against the United States more likely to happen in the near future.

MIDDLE EAST FIGHTING MAKES TERRORIST ATTACK ON...
Israel The U.S.
More likely 55% 40%
Less likely 7 9
No impact 32 45

Fears of the conflict spreading have come down a little in the past two weeks, however, perhaps because of the United States' peace effort in the Middle East. 21% now think it is very likely that there will be another terrorist attack against the United States in the next few months. 28% thought so two weeks ago.

But there are worries that the U.S. response to the fighting between Israel and the Palestinians is affecting U.S. relations with other Arab nations negatively. 60% say the U.S. reaction to the Middle East situation has hurt U.S. relations with other Arab nations, with three in ten saying it has hurt a lot.

HAS U.S. RESPONSE HURT RELATIONS WITH OTHER ARAB NATIONS?
Hurt a lot 30%
Hurt a little 25
Hurt, not sure how much 5
Has not hurt relations 27

THE PRESIDENT

So far the failure of the Powell trip has not affected opinions of the President - at least among Americans. By 58% to 27%, Americans continue to approve of the President's handling of the situation in the Middle East - unchanged from two weeks ago.

Bush's approval rating on his handling of the situation in the Middle East is lower than his approval ratings for his overall job as a president and for his handling of the campaign against terrorism, which, while slipping, are still near his record-high levels.

BUSH APPROVAL RATINGS
Overall 76%
Campaign against terrorism 78%
Foreign policy 62%
The Middle East 58%

Worries that the United States' position in the current Middle East conflict is hurting its relations with other Arab nations have not yet affected Bush's job approval on his handling of foreign policy. 62% now approve of the way the President is handling foreign policy, compared with 65% two weeks ago.



This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1,119 adults, interviewed by telephone April 15-18, 2002. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample.size>

For detailed information on how CBS News conducts public opinion surveys, click here.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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