NEW YORK – Few Americans think there will ever be peace in the Middle East, and most see the current fighting as a continuation of the ongoing violence in the region and not as part of the war on terrorism. Majorities think Israel has done the right thing in fighting Hezbollah and support the United States siding with Israel. In addition, more Americans support pulling troops out of Iraq by the end of next year than say they should stay until the Iraqis can take control. Finally, people see little hope for democracy in Cuba as most expect Castro to be replaced by another dictator. These are just some of the findings from the latest FOX News national poll.
More than twice as many Americans see the current crisis as a continuation of the violence that has been going on in the Middle East for hundreds of years (58 percent) than see it as part of the global war on terrorism (21 percent).
One possible reason is that only a slim majority of the public (53 percent) considers Hezbollah a terrorist group, 10 percent disagrees and more than a third (38 percent) says they don’t know enough to say. Many more Republicans (67 percent) than Democrats (45 percent) see Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
Over half of Americans (54 percent) think Israel has done the right thing in fighting Hezbollah - more than twice as many as disagree (26 percent). As is the case on so many issues these days, there are huge partisan differences here as 72 percent of Republicans think Israel has done the right thing, while 44 percent of Democrats think so.
By a slim margin more people think Israel’s military action has been too aggressive (37 percent) rather than not aggressive enough (31 percent), with some volunteering the action has been "about right" (16 percent).
"People are more likely to see the fighting in Lebanon as more like the West Bank and Gaza," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman. "While the majority supports Israel’s self-defense measures, they are also moved by the pictures of dead and injured children coming out of Lebanon. Furthermore, particularly in the initial phases, it was impossible for people to ignore the fact that many people being bombed and trying to escape were not just Lebanese-Americans, but Christian Lebanese-Americans."
Less than one in five Americans think there will ever be peace in the Middle East (18 percent); most disagree (78 percent). Back in January 2005, the results were more optimistic: 31 percent said they thought peace could be achieved and 61 percent said no.
Americans think the United States should support Israel in the current conflict (52 percent), though nearly a third thinks the country should support both sides evenly or neither side. Again, clear partisan differences are evident as Republicans (70 percent) are much more likely to think the United States should support Israel than are Democrats (45 percent) and independents (39 percent).
Overall, nearly half think the United States has done the right thing in the conflict (47 percent); Republicans (72 percent) are more than twice as likely as Democrats (35 percent) to think so.
By an 11-percentage point margin Americans would like the U.S. to take a less active role (46 percent) rather than a more active role (35 percent) in the peace negotiations.
Similarly, views are sharply divided on whether the United States should let Israel do what it needs to do (47 percent) or try to broker a cease-fire (44 percent).
Most Americans see the Mideast conflict as having a definite affect here at home: 49 percent believe the violence affects the United States and day-to-day life in this country "a lot" and another 32 percent say "some."
Even so, if a peace treaty were signed, 63 percent of Americans say they would oppose sending U.S. troops as peacekeepers -- more than double the number that favors such an action (30 percent).
Opinion Dynamics Corporation conducted the national telephone poll of 900 registered voters for FOX News from August 8 to August 9. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
The Situation in Iraq
More than eight out of 10 voters say the situation in Iraq will be "very" important to their vote for Congress this fall. So what do people want the United States to do?
Views are mixed and divide fairly evenly between three main options: just over a quarter thinks U.S. troops should pull out of Iraq by year end (27 percent), and almost a third thinks troops should pull out gradually over the next year (31 percent), while another third thinks the U.S. should wait to leave until Iraqis are capable of taking over (33 percent). Hardly any (4 percent) think the United States should send more troops to Iraq.
A huge majority of Democrats (76 percent) supports pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq either by the end of this year or over the next year. Among Republicans, a 57 percent majority supports troops staying until after Iraqis are able to take control of the situation.
"When senior generals are testifying before Congress about the likelihood of civil war, it becomes harder and harder for average Americans to say ‘stay the course’," comments Gorman. "The defeat of Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary sends a clear signal to Democrats, at least, that it is time to consider getting out."
Overall, a sizable majority (67 percent) thinks the United States cannot prevent the violence in Iraq from becoming a civil war, and though slightly more people think it would help (22 percent) rather than hurt (14 percent) the situation in Iraq if Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld were to resign, a majority thinks it would not make a difference (54 percent).
Cuba and Castro
Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, who turns 80 years old on Sunday, recently underwent surgery causing renewed speculation about the future of the communist country. The new poll shows that a majority of Americans (57 percent) thinks it is more likely that the country will replace Castro with another dictator than a democracy (24 percent).
Many people are paying attention to the news about Castro’s health. Over half say they are following the story either "very" (14 percent) or "somewhat" closely (38 percent). Still, the story lags far behind other stories in the news such as the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah (56 percent following "very closely") and the situation in Iraq (63 percent "very closely").
Reports say Castro has not been seen publicly since his surgery. Even so, most Americans think he is still alive (69 percent); a few think the dictator is already dead and the Cuban government is keeping it a secret (11 percent).
A plurality (41 percent) views Cuba as a harmless opponent and another 16 percent call it "neutral." About a quarter (28 percent) sees the country as a "dangerous enemy." Hardly any (5 percent) would call Cuba a friend of the United States.
And what about the country’s leader? Almost all Americans have a negative view of Castro: 5 percent have a favorable opinion of him and 78 percent unfavorable.