Created: 11/23/2002 5:00:56 PM
Washington, D.C.-The Arab American Institute (AAI) and Americans for Peace Now (APN) today released a joint survey of Arab American and Jewish American attitudes towards Middle East policy and relations between the two communities. Among the major findings of the survey are: belief on both sides that the Bush Administration should be steering a middle course in its policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; strong backing in the two communities for secure and independent states for Israelis and Palestinians alike; support in both communities for a peace proposal that is broadly based on the Taba framework; and some degree of misperception on both sides about the willingness of the other to support Israeli and Palestinian states. A more complete version of the AAI/APN public opinion poll can be found at http://www.aaiusa.org/PDF/aaiapn_poll.pdf or at http://www.peacenow.org.
The survey was conducted by Zogby International in late October 2002, and it has a margin of error of ñ 4.5%. Zogby International's clients include MSNBC, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Reuters North America, Gannett News Service, Microsoft Corporation, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the National Association of Manufacturers.
"The AAI/APN joint survey reveals that our communities are much more moderate on Middle East-related issues than people are often led to believe," said Debra DeLee, President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now. "In fact, this study provides encouraging information about the potential for both communities to work together in the pursuit of common interests in the region. Our poll also sends a message to decision makers in Washington that Arab Americans and Jewish Americans at large want to see the U.S. follow policies that will encourage the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, rather than detract from it."
According to James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute, "The results of this collaborative effort are significant. Despite heightened tensions and the terrible toll of the continuing conflict, solid majorities of Arab Americans and American Jews remain committed to a two state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. Both communities are troubled by current U.S. policy and want to see a more aggressive and balanced push for peace."
The AAI/APN survey found that both communities say that they follow the situation in the Middle East closely, with 56.6% of Arab American respondents indicating that they very closely track regional events and 36.6% saying that they somewhat closely follow them. Among Jewish Americans, 55.5% said they very closely follow Middle East developments and 40.4% said they somewhat closely track the situation. On the other hand, the communities differ in their degrees of optimism and pessimism about Middle East peace. Among Arab Americans, 58.9% said they are pessimistic and 33.8% expressed optimism. A larger majority of Jewish Americans (74.3%) expressed pessimism, while a smaller minority (17.2%) said they were optimistic.
Neither community gives President George W. Bush high ratings for his handling of the Arab/Israeli conflict in the Middle East. Among Arab Americans, 46.4% gave him a poor rating and 22.3% gave him a fair rating. Among Jewish Americans, 31.3% gave him a poor rating and 37.7% ranked him as fair.
When asked how they felt the Bush Administration was pursuing peace in the Middle East, 65.3% of Arab Americans said it was leaning towards Israel and 13.7% said it was steering a middle course. Among Jewish Americans, on the other hand, just 38.3% said that the Administration was leaning towards Israel and 30% thought it was steering a middle course. There was also strong sentiment (19.7%) among American Jews that the Administration was leaning towards disengagement from the peace process.
When asked how they thought the Bush Administration should be pursuing peace, there was more agreement. A majority of Arab Americans (65.8%) said it should be steering a middle course, while 11.6% said it should lean towards Israel and 7.7% said it should lean towards the Palestinians. A plurality of Jewish Americans (45.4%) wanted it steering a middle course, while 39.4% said it should lean towards Israel, and 1.5% wanted it to learn towards the Palestinians.
When asked if they agree or disagree that Palestinians have a right to live in a secure and independent state of their own, 85.5% of Jewish Americans said they agreed, as did 95.6% of Arab Americans. Similarly, 96.6% of Jewish Americans agreed that Israelis have a right to live in a secure and independent state of their own, and 95.4% of Arab Americans agreed with them. When asked if they agreed or disagreed that Israelis and Palestinians each have the right to live in secure and independent states of their own, 86.9% of Jewish Americans and 96.8% of Arab Americans agreed.
The communities also agreed about whom they generally blame for the breakdown of the Middle East peace process, with 42.1% of Jewish Americans and 49.6% of Arab Americans blaming both sides. There were differences, however, about the second most preferred answer from each community, with 41.3% of American Jews blaming Palestinians and 31.2% of Arab Americans saying Israelis.
There was a remarkable level of agreement about support for a peace proposal crafted along the lines of the Taba negotiations. The communities were asked if they would support a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians that included the establishment of an independent, secure Palestinian state alongside an independent, secure Israeli state, the evacuation of most settlements from the West Bank and Gaza, the establishment of a border roughly along the June 4, 1967 border, a Palestinian right of return only to inside a new Palestinian state, and establishing Jerusalem as the shared capital of both countries. Among Jewish Americans, 51.7% supported and 30.3% did not support such a plan, while 78.9% of Arab Americans supported and 10.9% did not support it.
Both communities have misperceptions about the level of support that exists on the other side for secure, independent Palestinian and Israeli states. While 50.4% of Arab Americans agreed that a majority of Jewish Americans think that Palestinians have a right to live in a secure and independent state of their own, the actual level of Jewish American support for this position is 85.5%. At the same time, only 33.8% of Jewish Americans agree and 40.7% disagree that a majority of Arab Americans think that Israelis have a right to live in a secure and independent state of their own, even though 95.4% of Arab Americans hold this view.
Despite the low level of support for their respective positions that they perceive on the other side, 93.9% of Arab Americans and 86.6% of Jewish Americans think that it is either very important or somewhat important for the two communities to work together to achieve a Middle East peace where Palestinians and Israelis each have the right to live in an independent state of their own.
For more information contact Jenny Salan/AAI at (202) 429-9210; Lewis Roth/APN at (202) 728-1893.