PRINCETON, NJ -- The White House appears to be keeping expectations low for how much President Barack Obama will do on his visit to Israel and the West Bank this week to jump-start peace talks in the region. However, should he attempt to do so, Americans, by 48% to 25%, say the United States should increase pressure on the Palestinians to compromise, rather than on the Israelis. An additional 18% think the U.S. needs to ramp up pressure on both sides, or on neither.
These results are from Gallup's Feb. 7-10 World Affairs survey. The previous two times Gallup asked this question, in 2007 and 2008, somewhat fewer Americans than today said the U.S. should lean more heavily on the Palestinians; however, it was still the modal response.
There are clear differences on this question by politics as well as by education. Anywhere from a slim to a solid majority of Republicans, conservatives, and adults with less than a college degree want the U.S. to put more pressure on the Palestinians. By contrast, Democrats and postgraduates are closely divided in their views of where more pressure is needed, while liberals want the U.S. to put more pressure on the Israelis.
All age groups would put more pressure on the Palestinians than the Israelis, but this preference is more pronounced among older adults than among those aged 18 to 34.
Plurality of Americans Still Back Independent Palestinian State
A plurality of Americans continue to support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as they have in all but one reading since 1999. The exception was in 2000, when Americans were about evenly split.
Forty-four percent now favor establishing an independent Palestinian state, down from 51% in 2009 and 2012, while 37% oppose it. Nearly one in five, 19%, have no opinion.
The same groups that are more divided in their views of where U.S. pressure is needed or that lean toward pressuring Israel -- Democrats, liberals, and postgraduates -- broadly support an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including a striking 71% of postgraduates. However, pluralities of moderates, independents, and college graduates are also in favor. Republicans, conservatives, and adults with no college education are more likely to oppose than favor Palestinian statehood.
Obama's Approval on Middle East Shows Room for Improvement
Both Iran's nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are likely to figure prominently in Obama's talks in the region this week. However, as Gallup previously reported, Americans are far more likely to consider the development of nuclear weapons by Iran as a critical threat to U.S. vital interests -- 83% rate it as such -- than they are to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in this serious a light (44%).
Still, Americans may welcome an effort by Obama and newly installed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to jump-start Mideast talks. Currently, the majority of Americans, 55%, disapprove of the way Obama is handling the situation in the Middle East between the Israelis and Palestinians, while little more than a third, 36%, approve.
President Obama's three-day visit to the Middle East, involving travel back and forth between Israel and the West Bank, and a final stop in Jordan, has reportedly been artfully scripted to achieve Obama's various objectives without committing any major diplomatic offenses. The politics involved may be just as challenging for him at home in the U.S., where rank-and-file Democrats support an independent Palestinian state, but are divided over whether the U.S. should put more pressure on the Palestinians or the Israelis to achieve peace. At the same time, the majority of rank-and-file Republicans appear unsympathetic to Palestinian aspirations for statehood and eager to see more pressure placed on the Palestinians in any peace discussions -- views that could color how Republicans interpret Obama's every move on the visit.
In an odd way, the good news for Obama could be that as he heads to the Middle East, the majority of Americans already disapprove of how he is handling the Israeli-Palestinian situation, meaning he may have more opportunity this week to inspire public support for his Mideast efforts than to lose it. At the same time, about half approve of his overall job performance as president. This suggests evaluations of his presidency are not closely tied to views of how he is handling that particular issue. Thus, even an ineffectual trip is unlikely to do much damage to how Americans rate his presidency overall.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 7-10, 2013, with a random sample of 1,015 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphones numbers are selected using random digit dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.