NEW YORK (Jul. 26)
A Roper poll conducted for the American Jewish Committee reveals that Americans feel more sympathetic toward Israel in the Middle East conflict, and less sympathetic toward the Arab cause than they did a year ago.
The findings of the poll, released Thursday, are significant in that a CBS-New York Times poll released just two weeks ago on the same subject found support for Israel among the American public declining and sympathy for the Palestinian cause to be on the rise.
The results of that poll received front page coverage in the New York Times and drew the attention of American Jewish leaders and Middle East experts alike.
“There are differences between the two polls,” said David Singer, director of the department of research and publications at the AJCommittee.
“The strength of the Roper poll, however, is that it is trying to determine a tread line over time. We’ve used identical questions and survey methodology over four years, and interpreted the data in terms of yearly shifts.”
The New York Times/CBS telephone poll, on the other hand, compared its new figures to earlier Roper reports, which had asked dissimilar questions and used face-to-face interviews rather than a random phone sampling.
At first glance, the findings of the two polls appear to be comparable. In some categories, the results seemed more positive for Israel, in others, negative.
POLICY TOO HARSH
For example, on the question of whether Israel’s response to the intifada has been too harsh, 29 percent in the Roper poll felt Israeli policy in the administered territories was too harsh, as opposed to 35 percent in the New York Times/CBS poll.
Twenty-seven percent in both polls said that Israel’s reaction was “just about right.”
But on the question of whether Israel is a reliable ally of the United States, the New York Times/CBS poll revealed more positive feelings toward Israel, with 45 percent answering yes and 40 percent no. The Roper statistics were 40 percent and 38 percent.
“I don’t think if you lay the polls next to each other, they’re really so different,” said Singer, who feels that the New York Times/CBS poll results were more favorable to Israel than The New York Times article’s headline indicated.
Regardless of the inconsistencies and the small percentage point differences, AJCommittee has interpreted the findings of the Roper poll as boding well for Israel and American attitudes toward the Jewish state.
“We find most heartening that most American remain steadfast in their regard for Israel,” said Ira Silverman, executive vice president of the organization. “While not all of the findings are positive, we are encouraged by the general picture of support that is strong and durable.”
According to the AJCommittee poll, sympathy with Israel in the Middle East conflict stood at 39 percent, while sympathy with the Arab nations was at 9 percent. In an April 1989 Roper poll, the figures were 36 percent and 13 percent.
Regarding the Palestinians, the figures were only slightly different: 34 percent and 15 percent, respectively. In April 1989, the comparable figures were 34 percent and 14 percent.
“Despite another year of great attention to the intifada, the fact is that there has been no shift of any significance on the question of American sympathy lying with Israel,” said David Harris, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Office of Government and International Affairs, based in Washington.
Harris had voiced concern with the findings of the New York Times/CBS poll two weeks ago. While saying that the results were not uniformly negative, he felt that they were generally one further indication of “a continued slow decline in support for Israel.”