U.S. Opinion Polls Show Growing Support for Palestinians

Article excerpt

Richard H. Curtiss is executive editor and Delinda C. Hanley news editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

There is good news for Palestinians from recent opinion polls. Most polls from the United States, Europe, and even Israel, show growing support for a Palestinian state. U.S. numbers increasingly resemble European polls as Americans become more conscious of what the Israelis have done in the occupied territories.

Let's start with a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll conducted June 7 and 8. For the first time since last October, a plurality of Americans, 43 percent, said the United States supports Israel too much, while 40 percent said Israel gets the right amount of support. The poll showed only 10 percent felt the U.S. supports Israel too little, with the remaining percentage unsure. The Gallup poll was conducted in telephone interviews with 800 adults, with a margin of error of 3 percent.

Gallup characterized the figures in its latest poll as "a significant decline in a pro-Israeli point of view." It compared the new figures with a similar poll conducted in October 2001. Eight months earlier only 29 percent of Americans thought the U.S. supported Israel too much, while 58 percent said Israel received the right amount of support, and 9 percent felt Israel received too little support.

The same week that the Gallup poll results were released, an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) survey appeared. This annual poll showed an increase in American anti-Semitism in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The ADL poll found that 51 percent of respondents believed that the Bush administration had tilted too far in favor of Israel. Nearly 42 percent of Americans, characterized as the anti-Semitic sample, also said they believed that American Jewish leaders have too much influence over U.S. foreign policy. Only 11 percent of Americans who were described as holding no anti-Semitic feelings felt Jewish leaders had too much power.

A CBS News Poll conducted May 13 and 14, 2002, a month earlier than the ADL survey mentioned above, asked respondents a similar question: "In dealing with the Middle East situation, do you think the Bush administration has been too supportive of Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians, has been too supportive of the Palestinians, or has treated both sides about right?"

This poll found 23 percent of Americans thought Bush was too supportive of Israel, only 7 percent thought Bush was too supportive of Palestinians, 48 percent thought Bush treated both about right, and 22 percent didn't know.

ABC and CBS News polls showed increasing support for Palestinians. A June 21-23 ABC News poll asked the following question: "Thinking about the Mideast: Do you think there should or should not be an independent Palestinian nation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip?" At least 45 percent agreed there should be a Palestinian state, 20 percent said there should not, and 35 percent didn't know. A CBS poll asked 685 adults nationwide the same question on July 8 and 9, 2002, with a similar result. Some 40 percent favored a Palestinian homeland, 31 percent opposed it, and 29 percent didn't know. When compared to a similar survey conducted in October 1991, the numbers had noticeably improved. In 1991 only 33 percent favored a Palestinian state, 46 percent opposed it, and 21 percent didn't know.

Another CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll on June 21-23, 2002 asked, "Do you favor or oppose the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank if the Palestinian government demonstrates that it can end the suicide bombings in Israel?" A whopping 74 percent of Americans said they favored a Palestinian state.

The July 8 and 9 CBS News Poll mentioned earlier also measured American support for the Palestinian leader. The poll asked: "The Palestinians are scheduled to hold an election in 2003. If Yasser Arafat is re-elected, should the U. …