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February 24, 2014, 8:29 PM GMT+0

Most Americans back the President's decision to meet with the Dalai Lama

President Barack Obama held a forty-five minute meeting with the Dalai Lama on Friday, despite protests from the Chinese government. President Obama used the occasion as an opportunity to call upon China to fully respect the human rights of Tibetans and to urge China to resume talks with the Dalai Lama, who is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the leader of Tibetans in exile.

China reacted angrily to the meeting, saying that it would "severely impair China-US relations". Unlike previous meetings with the Dalai Lama, the Administration made minimal efforts to placate the Chinese, reflecting what has been described as a broader shift in the administration's thinking towards a tougher line on China.

The latest research from YouGov shows that most Americans (52%) approve of the President's decision to meet with the Dalai Lama. Only 14% of Americans disapprove, though Republicans are closely split with 35% backing the decision and 30% opposing it.

Asked specifically whether it was more important to show support for the Dalai Lama by meeting him or maintaining good relations with China by cancelling the meeting, Democrats (42%) were more likely than Republicans (31%) to favor meeting with the Dalai Lama regardless of whether or not it hurt relationship with China. In fact, Republicans (40%) tend to think that the President should have called off the meeting. Independents tended to say that going forward with the meeting (32%) was more important than maintaining good relations with China (24%).

Full poll results can be found here.

Image: Getty

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