A majority of Americans see resolving the Mideast conflict as a necessary part of winning the larger war on terrorism. And, despite grumbling from some pundits, a similar number think President Bush is doing everything he can to bring peace to the region.
The latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll shows 54 percent think the U.S. needs to find a solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians as part of winning the war on terror. However, Americans are divided on whether talks or tanks will achieve peace. Overall, slightly more believe peace can be attained only by a clear military victory (39 percent) than believe negotiating alone can bring peace (31 percent).
Republicans are more inclined than Democrats to believe military action is needed. Almost half of Republicans (48 percent) think a military victory is needed compared to 32 percent of Democrats and 33 percent of Independents.
More Americans think the situation will lead to an Arab oil embargo than think it will escalate into World War III. Almost two-thirds think an embargo is likely, and 26 percent think it is "very likely." Half of the country thinks the decades-long conflict will eventually start another world war, with one in five thinking escalation to WWIII is "very likely."
"There is substantial concern that the whole crisis will have some spillover onto daily lives in the U.S.," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "The gasoline lines of the 1970s are only a dim memory for most Americans, but there is certainly worry about them returning."
While a majority thinks President Bush is doing everything he can on the Middle East, a third think he could be doing more to help bring peace. As one might expect, Republicans are much more likely than either Democrats or Independents to say Bush is doing all he can. Sixty-five percent of GOPers think Bush is doing enough, compared to only 43 percent of Democrats and 50 percent of Independents.
Bush's overall ratings remain strong, although there has been a gradual decline over the last few months. Today, 79 percent of the public approves of the job he is doing as president (13 percent disapprove), down from a high point of 88 percent approval in November. While there is the usual stronger approval among Republicans, Bush receives equally strong approval from men and women.
Seventy-nine percent of Americans also have a favorable opinion of Bush, which far outshines the favorable ratings of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat. Only 8 percent say they have a favorable opinion of Arafat and 69 percent say they are unfavorable, while 23 percent either have no opinion or have never heard of him. Sharon's ratings are more evenly split (21 percent favorable to 25 percent unfavorable), but fully 54 percent of Americans either can't say or have never heard of him.
Another leader, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, does not have the name recognition problem the Mideast leaders have. He does, however, have an extremely high unfavorable rating of 92 percent.
Polling was conducted by telephone April 2-3, 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.
1. George W. Bush
2. Yasser Arafat
3. Ariel Sharon
4. Saddam Hussein
5. Internal Revenue Service
6. Do you approve or disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as president?
7. - 14. I'm going to read you a list of people and institutions. Please tell me how much confidence you have in each. How much confidence do you have in (Rotate):
SCALE: 1. A great deal, 2. Some, 3. Not much, or 4. None at all 5. (Not sure)
15. Do you think the U.S. needs to find a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as part of winning the overall war on terrorism?
16. How likely do you think it is that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict will escalate into World War III?
17. Do you think peace in the Middle East can be achieved solely through negotiations or must one side clearly win a military victory to resolve the conflict?
18. How likely to do you think it is that the Middle East conflict will lead to a new Arab oil embargo, leading to oil shortages in the U.S.?
19. Do you think President Bush is doing everything he can to bring peace to the Middle East or could he be doing more?
20. Historically, the United States has sided more with the democracy of Israel in the Middle East conflict. In the current conflict, do you think the U.S. should continue to support Israel or should it try to be more evenhanded?
21. If a peace treaty were signed in the Middle East, would you favor or oppose the United States sending military troops to help keep that peace?
22. Do you think American Muslims are doing enough to help U.S. authorities track down terrorist cell members here in the United States?
23. - 29. I'm going to read you a list of topics that are currently making headlines in the newspaper and magazines. For each one, please tell me when you see this topic, do you usually:
SCALE: 1. Read the whole article carefully, 2. Skim the article, or 3. Don’t you read about that topic at all 4. (It depends) 5. (Not sure) 6. (Don't read the newspaper or magazines)