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Israel and the Palestinians

Support for a Palestinian State

A majority of Americans supports an independent Palestinian state, with support becoming overwhelming when told that President Bush favors it.

Since the question of a Palestinian state has become largely noncontroversial, there have been few polls that explore the issue now that all of the key players favor it,. The most recent poll in May 2003, found that 58% favored “the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and the Gaza strip.” Only 22% were opposed and 20% had no opinion.

This support was up from polls even taken just a year earlier—perhaps in response to the growing consensus at the time. In polls taken in 2001 and 2002 most found a plurality or modest majority in favor. In June 2002, ABC found that 45% thought "there should be an independent Palestinian nation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip," while 20% thought there should not (with a sizable 35% don't know). In May 2002, a 39% plurality favored "the establishment of a Palestinian homeland in the occupied territories" (30% opposed, 31% don't know; CBS). In October 2001 an ABC poll showed a 55% majority saying the US should "recognize Palestine as an independent state," with only 28% saying the US should not and 17% giving no opinion. A Newsweek survey taken in early December 2001 found a bare plurality saying the US should support the arguably more demanding effort of "creating a Palestinian state." Forty percent favored US support, 39% opposed it, and 21% did not know. Similarly, a CBS/New York Times survey taken in October 2001 found a plurality of 38% in favor of "the establishment of a Palestinian homeland in the occupied territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip." Twenty-nine percent opposed it and 33% expressed no opinion. [1] In just one case in late March 2002, a narrow plurality said the US should not "favor creating a Palestinian state" (44% opposed, 39% in favor). However, the wording of the Newsweek poll may have led some respondents to assume that the US was to be the direct creator of a Palestinian state.[2]

When informed of President Bush's position on the issue, more than 3 in 4 supported the US backing the establishment of a Palestinian state. PIPA's November 2001 poll asked: "President Bush has said that there ought to be a Palestinian state, provided that it recognizes the right of Israel to exist. Do you support or do you oppose this position?" An overwhelming majority (77%) supported the President's position, while only 13% opposed it. [3] This adds further evidence suggesting that the increased support for a Palestinian State found in 2003 was a response to the growing consensus in favor of the idea.

Another condition-apart from knowledge of the president's position on a Palestinian state-also produces high levels of support. An overwhelming 74% said they would "support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank if the Palestinian government demonstrates that it can end the suicide bombings in Israel;" under this condition, only 18% were opposed (CNN/USA Today, June 2002).[4]

While more Americans feel that endorsing a Palestinian state will be beneficial than think it will be harmful, a plurality believes that it will have little effect on US efforts to fight terrorism and promote peace in the Middle East. When an October 2001 Newsweek poll asked respondents to think about "the impact of the United States endorsing the idea of [a] Palestinian state," a plurality (43%) said that it would make "no difference" to the US "effort to build a coalition to fight terrorism." Thirty-five percent thought it would help, and 11% felt it would hurt. Also, a 47% plurality said it would make no difference to the likelihood of "peace in the Middle East" (27% more likely; 19% less likely). The public was divided as to a Palestinian state's impact on Israel: 24% thought it would help, 29% thought it would hurt, and 34% thought it would make no difference. A plurality felt that the only positive impact a state would have is on the Palestinian people themselves: 38% help, 19% hurt, 32% no difference. [5]



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View PIPA/Knowledge Networks study [pdf files]
Americans on the Middle East Road Map

[full report]
May 30, 2003