As U.S. officials ask Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to fight terrorism, many Americans in the latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll say Arafat himself is a terrorist.
During Secretary of State Colin Powell's recent visit to the Middle East, he asked Arafat to arrest terrorists and to lead the Palestinian people away from violence. The national poll, which was conducted as Powell's trip was coming to an end, shows that about two-thirds of Americans (65 percent) say Arafat is a terrorist, 17 percent say he isn't.
Powell spent 10 days on a peace mission, but almost half of the public is skeptical about the likelihood for any positive outcome. More Americans believe Powell's trip was in vain (50 percent) than that his efforts will ultimately help reach peace (35 percent). Overall though, the secretary of state receives a very strong job approval rating of 82 percent, with both Democrats and Republicans giving Powell high marks.
Americans are also skeptical about whether Saudi Arabia is a friend to our country. Only 18 percent think Saudi Arabia is a friend of the United States, down from 21 percent in November 2001. And conversely, today 63 percent think Saudi Arabia is not a friend, up from 54 percent.
The Palestinians continue to receive more blame than the Israelis for the ongoing fighting (33% blame the Palestinians and 12 percent blame the Israelis); however, a plurality (36 percent) says both sides are equally responsible for the failure to achieve peace. Similarly, more Americans believe Arafat needs to be replaced (25 percent) than believe Sharon needs to go (5 percent), but 4-in-10 believe both leaders must go in order to reach peace.
Almost half of the respondents said U.S. efforts to resolve the Mideast conflict have not been forceful enough, 13 percent too forceful and 18 said "about right." Even with a plurality endorsing more action, only about one-in-four favors sending U.S. ground troops to the region to bring about a cease-fire (63 percent oppose). The number in favor of sending troops increases to 48 percent if the troops are sent as peacekeepers after a treaty has been signed, but almost as many oppose (42 percent) sending peacekeeping troops.
"People are clearly both confused and conflicted about the situation in the Middle East," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "They want forceful action to achieve peace, but they don’t want to use troops. They’ve lost any faith they ever had in Arafat as a peacemaker and half of them have now lost confidence in Sharon."
The Israeli/Palestinian conflict re-ignited at a time when the country was focused on the war against terrorism, and Americans see both of these as important areas on which President Bush should focus. Just over one-third (35 percent) would like Bush's priority to be solely the war on terrorism, 21 percent think the priority should solely be the Mideast, and one-third would like him to focus equally on both the war on terrorism and the Mideast conflict. Bush's overall job performance rating remains high at 76 percent approval.
The poll also asked about several possible measures that could be used to reduce the country's dependence on imports of Middle East oil. A FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll from earlier in the month showed that a majority of the public thinks the Mideast conflict will likely lead to oil shortages here in the U.S.
Americans far prefer increased domestic drilling to either gasoline rationing or increased reliance on nuclear power. Increased drilling in the U.S. is favored by 73 percent (21 percent oppose), 35 percent favor building more nuclear power plants (52 percent oppose), and 25 percent favor rationing gas and oil (65 percent oppose). Rationing is so dreaded that twice as many favor drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge as favor rationing.
Polling was conducted by telephone April 16-17, 2002 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ± 3 percentage points.
I'm going to read the names of some people and organizations. Please tell me whether you have a generally favorable or unfavorable opinion of each. If you've never heard of someone, please just say so. (RANDOMIZE)
1. George W. Bush
2. Al Gore
3. Laura Bush
4. Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president?
5. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Colin Powell is doing as secretary of state?
6. Do you approve or disapprove of the job Condolezza Rice is doing as national security advisor?
7. Which problem do you think is more important for President Bush to focus on right now?
8. Who do you think is more to blame for the failure to reach peace in the Middle East: the Israelis or the Palestinians?
9. Do you think U.S. efforts to resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict have been too forceful or not forceful enough?
10. Do you think Secretary of State Colin Powell's trip to the Middle East will ultimately help reach peace there or not?
11. Do you think a change in either the Israeli or the Palestinian leadership will be needed to reach peace in the Middle East? (IF YES) Who needs to go, Yasser Arafat, Ariel Sharon, or both?
12. - 13. Would you favor or oppose sending U.S. troops to the Middle East:
SCALE: 1. Favor 2. Oppose 3. (Not sure)
14. - 17. Do you favor or oppose the following ways to reduce the country's dependence on imports of Middle East oil?
SCALE: 1. Favor 2. Oppose 3. (Not sure)
Compare to: (26-27 Feb 02) Do you favor or oppose opening a small amount — less than 10 percent — of the Alaskan wilderness areas for oil exploration as a way to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil?
18. Do you think the nation of Saudi Arabia is a friend of the United States or not?
Compare to: (14-15 Nov 01) The governments of both Saudi Arabia and Egypt claim to be friends of the United States and supportive in the war on terrorism. Do you think Saudi Arabia is truly a friend of the United States or not?
19. Do you think Yasser Arafat is a terrorist?
20. How likely do you think it is that Yasser Arafat is delaying peace in the Middle East to give other Arab countries time to develop weapons of mass destruction?