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Poll: Americans Back Bush On Arafat

Mideast Peace Talks, Yasser Arafat
The public supports the Bush Administration's recent refusal to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, but that support may disappear if Palestinians re-elect Arafat in next year's elections. If Arafat is re-elected, Americans believe the Bush Administration should then meet with Arafat.

Removing Arafat from power, as the Administration has called for, is not seen as paving the way for peace in the region. Many Americans think that replacing Arafat with another leader will make no difference in achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Bush Administration has said it now refuses to meet with Arafat, and 54% of Americans think that is the right decision for now. 33% think it is not.

Is U.S. Right To Refuse To Meet With Arafat?
Yes 54%
No 33

There is a partisan element to these views; 68% of Republicans think it is the right thing to do, compared to 41% of Democrats.

However, if Arafat is re-elected by the Palestinians in the election scheduled for January 2003, then Americans believe the U.S. government needs to acknowledge him. 53% think the U.S. should then meet with Arafat, and 32% think the U.S. should continue to reject his leadership by not meeting with him.

If Arafat Is Re-Elected, U.S. Should:
Meet with him 53%
Not meet with him 32

While about a fourth of the public sees Arafat as the primary obstacle to peace, more do not. 27% think that replacing Arafat with another leader is more likely to lead to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but nearly six in ten -- 59% -- think his ouster will make no difference or will make peace less likely.

Likelihood Of Peace Under Another Palestinian Leader:
More likely 27%
Less likely 4
No difference 55


Americans continue to be evenly divided on the appropriate U.S. role in the Middle East. 46% think the U.S. has a responsibility to try to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, but just as many, 46%, think that is not this country's business.

And there is some evidence of American frustration with events there. In this poll, 43% think establishing peace in the Middle East is something the U.S. can do something about, but slightly more, 49%, think the U.S. cannot do anything about peace there.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
Can U.S. Do Anything About Peace In Middle East?











This poll finds little change in public evaluations of the president's handling of the Middle East situation. 57% now approve of the way he is handling things there. As has been true for the past few months, a majority continues to think Bush is just reacting to events there as they occur, instead of having a clear plan.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
Bush's Policy In Middle East

Clear plan




Reacting to events





There has been little change in Americans' opinions on what should happen. 40% favor the establishment of a Palestinian homeland in the occupied territories and the Gaza strip; 31% oppose that. Nearly three in ten don't have an opinion.

This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 685 adults, interviewed by telephone July 8-9, 2002. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points.

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