Posted on March 29, 2010 in Reports

Washington, D.C. - March 26, 2010 - The Arab American Institute (AAI) held a briefing on Capitol Hill entitled, American Perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Discussion on New Zogby International Poll, Shifting Attitudes, and Outlook for 2010.  The discussion was led by two leading experts on the Middle East, U.S. public opinion and American policy-making: AAI President Dr. James Zogby and MJ Rosenberg, Senior Fellow, Media Matters Action Network. 

Dr. James Zogby began the discussion with observations about Zogby International's 2010 poll "American Opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict."  He addressed observations about the poll's main findings beginning with results about Israel's favorability among Americans.  The poll shows that Israel retains a strong overall view in the eyes of Americans, but the numbers have been slipping since 2009 due to a partisan split over the opinion of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.  It was then noted that Palestinian numbers have also declined between 2009 and 2010, also demonstrating a partisan split on the opinion of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.  It was also a significant finding that a plurality of poll takers oppose Israeli settlements, even though there is a large partisan split among Democrats and Republicans on this issue.  Throughout different aspects of the poll, Dr. Zogby noted that "the partisan divide is operation here and has been growing the last several years." 

Despite strong partisan splits on some issues, Dr. Zogby emphasized that "one area with a strong bipartisan consensus" is that the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict negatively impacts the U.S.  This is demonstrated by the fact that 81% of responders in the poll agreed with the statement that the "Israeli-Palestinian conflict has a negative impact on U.S. interest."  This poll result reflects similar opinions to the Obama Administration's stance on the issue of settlements and also General Petraeus' recent statements regarding the impact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has on overall U.S. relations in the Middle East.  Dr. Zogby suggested that the poll shows significant American support for the policies of the Obama Administration, but even if people are inclined to support the President, they are not sure why because we are "missing a sense of clarity on the issue." 

MJ Rosenberg further discussed the importance of the poll findings, most notably the difference between American support for Israel 30 years ago and today.  Rosenberg reinforced the idea of partisan divide on the issues, making the observation that it used to be that "liberal Democrats supported Israel and right wing Republicans were indifferent and now liberal Democrats are the least supportive."  However, Rosenberg emphasized the distinction between popularity for Israel and opinions about Israeli government policies.  It is not that Israel is less popular, but instead "it is the policies people don't like."

Following the summary of the poll findings was a question and answer session where the main concern was the future outlook for 2010.  The continual lack of understanding about the Palestinian narrative was brought up and Dr. Zogby attributed the low poll numbers for favorability towards Palestinians to the fact that stories about Palestinians as people "just like us" are "too few and far between." 

Both Dr. Zogby and MJ Rosenberg agreed that despite partisan splits on specific issues, the poll reflects an overall shift in American attitudes regarding how the current situation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negatively impacts the U.S.  They emphasized that the conflict reaches further than the Middle East and it is also about Americans now.  The conflict as it is today directly impacts U.S. relations in the entire Middle East region.  Dr. Zogby noted that it is now about the U.S. "saving itself in a part of the world where we have done wrong for too long."

For Dr. Zogby's Washington Watch article about the poll, please click here.

To view the poll results in full, please click here.