President Obama’s Thursday speech examining Middle East policies brought few changes in the public’s views about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, even as it may have clarified opinion about where the President stands. One reason, according to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, is that six in ten Americans heard none of the speech themselves.
And those who did evaluated it in the same partisan way that Americans seem to view their Presidents these days, with more of those who say they heard some of the speech calling it “fair” or “poor,” than thinking it was “good” or “very good.”
The partisan breakdown: nearly three in four Republicans who heard the speech said it was poor; nearly eight in ten Democrats thought it was a good speech.
But while the public may not have changed when it comes to where its sympathies lie in the Middle East (more than four times as many say they side with Israel than say they side with the Palestinians, with almost no change from a week ago), many see the President as having different views. Americans are three times as likely to think he sides with the Palestinians as to say his sympathies lie more with Israel.
Republicans are especially likely to say the President is different from them in his Middle East views. 75% of Republicans say their sympathies lie with Israel; 63% say the President’s sympathies lie with the Palestinians.
Democrats are much more likely — and independents somewhat more likely — to think the President agrees with them when it comes to Israel. But there is a significant amount of perceived disagreement with the President from those on both sides: only 17% of those who personally favor the Palestinians and just 9% of those whose sympathies lie with Israel believe the President agrees with them. A majority of those who are sympathetic to both sides think the President is too.
The speech made little dent in some other perceptions about the Middle East. Americans are just about as likely to say the United States policies give too little support to Israel as to say they give too much support to that country. There continues to be narrow support for an independent Palestinian state. And more say there will never be a lasting agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians than expect one sometime in the future. All of those opinions were about the same a week ago, before the speech.
There was also no real change in perceptions of whether or not the President has a clear plan for U.S. policy in the Middle East. Last week, Americans said he did not, 53% to 20%. This week, they have a similar view: 49% say he does not have a clear plan, 21% say he does.
However, more today think there has been some impact of Obama Administration policies on efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than thought so a week ago. But, as before, those who see an impact more often think it has been negative than positive.
Photo source: Press Association