Pessimism About Palestinian-Israeli Situation Returns

by Lydia Saad

Majority doubt peace will ever be realized

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ – With violence between Israel and the Palestinians spiraling, and with no immediate prospects in sight for a cease-fire, the latest Gallup Poll finds Americans have again turned pessimistic about the chances for peace in the Middle East.

Only last month, a slim majority of Americans believed there would come a time "when Israel and the Arab nations will be able to settle their differences and live in peace." But that was an aberration. In a new poll, conducted June 12-15, just 38% predicted Arab-Israeli peace was possible. Six in 10 Americans now doubt a resolution to the conflict will ever be worked out.

Current attitudes are in line with the level of skepticism recorded between late 2001 and early 2002, during one of the bloodiest periods of Arab-Israeli military and terrorist attacks. Even prior to that, the plurality of Americans tended to be pessimistic on this question.

Will There Come a Time When Israel and the Arab Nations Can Live in Peace?

This drop in confidence over the past month was particularly sharp among women, older Americans, and "conservatives." Barely one-third of each of these groups now believe peace is possible, compared to close to half of their counterparts (men, younger Americans, "liberals," and "moderates") who feel this way.

Percent Who Believe Peaceful Settlement Will Emerge

Change by Demographic Group

 

May 19-21, 2003

June 12-15, 2003

Change

%

%

%

National adults

51

38

-13

Men

53

43

-10

Women

50

33

-17

18-49

53

43

-10

50+

48

30

-18

Conservatives

49

32

-17

Moderates

49

37

-12

Liberals

56

50

-6

Approve of Bush job performance

51

39

-12

Disapprove of Bush job performance

49

36

-13

U.S. Should Be a Neutral Arbiter

Gallup polls consistently show that Americans are more sympathetic to the Israeli side than the Palestinian side in this dispute. But the new poll reconfirms that, despite Americans' personal sympathy with Israel, they want the U.S. government to be neutral in the conflict. Asked which side the United States should officially take, only 18% think the United States should favor Israel, even fewer (4%) say it should favor the Palestinians, while nearly three-quarters (74%) say the United States should not take either side. Earlier results on this question from 1998 through 2002 found roughly the same sentiment.

President Bush has ratcheted up his personal involvement in Middle East diplomacy in recent months, most notably with his participation in high-level Israeli-Palestinian summit meetings held in the Middle East in early June. A Gallup Poll conducted earlier this month suggests that Americans largely back this initiative. Exactly half the public, polled June 9-10, said that a peaceful solution to the Palestinian-Israeli situation in the Middle East ought to be a very important foreign policy goal of the United States; another 37% rated it "somewhat important."

Interestingly, despite Bush's heavy involvement in the process today, politics plays little role in perceptions about the chances peace will come about. Overall, 63% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing as president, and 33% disapprove. A majority of both groups are doubtful that the Israelis and Palestinians will ever work out their differences. Only 39% of those who approve of Bush -- statistically similar to the 36% who disapprove -- believe a peaceful settlement will be reached.

Will Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Ever Be Resolved?
According to President Bush Job Approval

The U.S. public gives Bush positive ratings for his handling of the situation in Middle East, not dissimilar to his overall job approval rating. Six in 10 Americans approve and 36% disapprove of the job Bush is doing on the Middle East. A year ago at this time, Bush's job rating on the Middle East was slightly higher than it is today, at 67%, but his overall job rating was also higher, registering 76%.

Most Americans Follow Middle East News

The Arab-Israeli conflict does have Americans' attention, although not quite as much as last year. Today, one in four Americans say they are following news of the situation very closely, and another 49% are following it somewhat closely. This 74% is similar to the percentage of overall public attention recorded in April 2002 (79%), although at that time a slightly higher number, 34%, was paying "very close" attention to the conflict.

Americans' attention to news from the Middle East appears to be just slightly higher than the normal level of public attention given to major news stories. Across more than 100 news items rated in the Gallup Poll over the past decade, the average percentage of Americans paying very close attention to news items is 24% (similar to the 25% paying close attention to the Israeli-Palestinian issue today). The average percentage paying very or somewhat close attention to news items is 65%, slightly lower than the 74% paying close attention to the Israeli-Palestinian issue today.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,006 adults, 18 years and older, conducted June 12-15, 2003. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

D. The situation in the Middle East

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

%

%

%

2003 Jun 12-15

60

36

4

2002 Jun 28-30

67

27

6

2002 Apr 29-May 1

72

23

5

2002 Apr 5-7

67

27

6

2002 Mar 22-24 ^

72

23

5

^

Asked of a half sample.



How closely would you say you have followed the recent situation in the Middle East involving Israel and the Palestinians -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?

 

Very
closely

Somewhat closely

Not too closely


Not at all

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Jun 12-15

25

49

21

5

*

2003 May 19-21

24

48

21

7

--

2002 Apr 5-7

34

45

18

3

*

2000 Oct 13-14

30

39

18

11

2

1997 Aug 12-13 ^

6

23

36

35

*

^ Based on half sample.



Do you think there will or will not come a time when Israel and the Arab nations will be able to settle their differences and live in peace?

BASED ON 496 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

 

Yes, there
will come a time

No, there
will not

No
opinion

%

%

%

2003 Jun 12-15 ^

38

60

2

2003 May 19-21

51

46

3

2002 Apr 5-7

36

61

3

2002 Feb 4-6

37

59

4

2001 Aug 10-12

32

64

4

2001 Feb 1-4

41

56

3

2000 Jan 25-26

49

45

6

1999 Jul 22-25

49

47

4

1998 Dec 4-6

40

56

4

1997 Aug 12-13

36

56

8

^

Asked of a half sample.



In the Middle East conflict, do you think the United States should take Israel's side, take the Palestinian's side, or not take either side?

BASED ON 510 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM B

 

Israel's
side

Palestinian's
side

Not take
either

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2003 Jun 12-15 ^

18

4

74

4

2002 Apr 29-May 1

24

2

68

6

2002 Apr 5-7

22

2

71

5

2001 Sep 14-15

27

1

63

9

2000 Jul 6-9 ^

16

1

74

9

2000 Jan 25-26

15

1

72

12

1998 Dec 4-6

17

2

73

7

1998 May 8-10

15

2

74

9

^

Asked of a half sample.



As far as you are concerned, should the development of a peaceful solution to the Palestinian/Israeli situation in the Middle East be a very important foreign policy goal of the United States, a somewhat important goal, not too important, or not an important goal at all?

 

Very important

Somewhat important

Not too important

Not at all important

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Jun 9-10

50

37

7

4

2

2003 May 19-21

44

42

9

4

1

2002 Apr 5-7

58

32

5

4

1

2002 Mar 22-24

58

30

5

6

1

2002 Feb 4-6

54

30

7

6

3

2001 Feb 1-4

43

40

10

5

2

2000 Jul 6-9

34

43

14

6

3

2000 Jan 25-26

32

46

12

6

4

1999 Jul 22-25

41

41

9

6

3

1993 Sep 10-112

41

36

11

8

4

1991 Mar

46

41

6

5

2



* -- less than 0.5%

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