Most Americans Doubt Nixon Mideast Effort Will Succeed, Harris Finds

American attitudes toward the Middle East conflict are overwhelmingly sympathetic to Israel but sharply divided as to whether the United States should send troops to defend Israel if its existence was threatened by the Arabs with Soviet backing, according to the latest Louis Harris poll made public today. The poll results also showed that a majority of Americans give President Nixon a great deal or some credit for initiating the current 90-day cease-fire in the Middle East but 57 percent doubt the likelihood of a settlement resulting from the American initiative.

The poll was described as an in-depth survey of American attitudes toward the Middle East conflict. It is based on a survey of 1437 households, representing a national cross-section, made between Aug. 25 and Sept. 1, before the wave of Arab plane hijackings. When asked where their basic sympathies lay, 46 percent singled out Israel compared with-only six percent who said the Arabs. But a significant 25 percent reported no sympathies with either side and 23 percent were not able to make a judgement. Mr. Harris reported that pro-Israel sentiment was strongest among people with college education and those in the higher income brackets; pro-Arab sentiment was highest among blacks.

AMERICANS SHARPLY DIVIDED ON SENDING U.S. TROOPS TO ISRAEL

The question of American intervention with troops was phrased in two ways and in both the respondents were almost evenly divided. Told that “If it looked as though Israel were going to be taken over by the Russians and the Arabs, the U.S. would have to do everything to save Israel, including going to war,” 38 percent agreed and 38 percent disagreed. When the statement was reversed to say, “Even if it looked as though Israel were going to be taken over, the U.S. should not send any of our troops to defend Israel,” 41 percent agreed and 38 percent disagreed. Mr. Harris reported that interventionist sentiment on behalf of Israel ran strongest in rural areas and small towns centered in the South. He said that 43 to 24 percent of the public does not believe that Israel should give back the Arab territories it captured in the June, 1967 war. By 73 to six percent, Americans agreed to the claim that “Israel is a small courageous country which is trying to preserve its independence.” By contrast, Americans disagreed 60-14 percent with the Arab claim that Israel is an intruder in the Middle East.

MANY AGREE RUSSIA SEEKS TO DESTROY ISRAEL, POLL FINDS

The public agreed to 30-26 percent that “Arab refugees are badly treated in areas occupied by Israel and should control their own lands” but 44 percent said they lacked sufficient facts to render an opinion. Israel’s claim that the Russians have moved their missiles and pilots into the Mideast with the intention of destroying Israel and dominating the area was given credence by a margin of 41-29; 36 percent of Americans shared Israel’s distrust of United Nations and Big Power pledges while 40 percent thought such peace-keeping efforts would work.

Asked about the prospects of a U.S.-Soviet nuclear confrontation over the Mideast, 47 percent of the public said they were worried and an equal percentage said they were not. Twenty-seven percent gave President Nixon high marks for his Mideast diplomacy, 45 percent gave him some but not a lot of credit and 15 percent hardly any credit. On the likelihood of a settlement, 21 percent thought American moves would bring results, 57 percent doubted it and 22 percent was not sure.

NEXT STORY