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Poll: Public split on Bush's handling of the Mideast crisis

Majority doubts Gibson hates Jews

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Americans are split on the president's handling of the Mideast crisis, a new CNN poll finds.

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Opinion Research Corporation

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Respondents to a CNN poll released Friday were nearly evenly split on President Bush's handling of the current conflict in the Middle East.

Forty-six percent of 1,047 Americans participating in the telephone poll, conducted by Opinion Research Corporation for CNN, said they disapproved of Bush's handling of the crisis, while 43 percent said they approved. Ten percent had no opinion.

Overall, Bush's job approval rating continues a slow climb, but the majority of Americans -- 59 percent -- said they disapprove of how Bush is handling his job as president. Forty percent said they approved. (View the complete poll results -- PDF)

The approval numbers are a jump from previous polls. In April, only 32 percent said they approved of the way Bush was handling his job, and 60 percent disapproved. Since then, his approval numbers have been creeping upward.

Sixty-two percent of respondents said they disapproved of Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq -- tying poll results in May for the most respondents who disapprove. Another 59 percent said they disapproved of Bush's handling of the economy.

About half the respondents -- or about 524 people -- were asked about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Sixty-two percent said they approved of her job performance, and 59 percent said they were "confident" or "somewhat confident" about her ability to handle the Middle East situation.

Relations with Cuba supported

Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds of the respondents -- 62 percent -- said they favored re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. Twenty-nine percent were opposed and 9 percent had no opinion on the issue. If Cuban leader Fidel Castro dies and his brother, Raul, takes power in Cuba, 69 percent said they would favor re-establishing Cuban relations.

On the current Middle East conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, more than two-thirds -- 68 percent -- said their sympathies lie with Israel, compared to only 6 percent who sympathize with Hezbollah. Eleven percent said they sympathized with neither, while another 11 percent had no opinion.

Forty-one percent said they thought Israel's military reaction to the July 12 kidnapping of its soldiers by Hezbollah -- which triggered the current conflict -- was "about right," but 32 percent said it went too far.

Respondents were also split about what Israel should do now. Forty-six percent said it should continue its military campaign until Hezbollah is unable to launch attacks against it; 44 percent said Israel should agree to a cease-fire as soon as possible.

Asked whether Israel, Lebanon and Hezbollah are allies of the United States, 82 percent said they either considered Israel an ally or "friendly, but not an ally;" 37 percent said Lebanon was "friendly, but not an ally;" and 69 percent said Hezbollah was either "unfriendly" toward the United States or an enemy.

A majority, 51 percent, said they favor the presence of U.S. ground troops in an international peacekeeping force on the Israeli-Lebanese border.

On U.S. aid to Israel, 49 percent said they believed the economic aid should stay at the current level, and 51 percent said they thought military aid should stay at the same level.

Majority doubts Gibson is anti-Semitic

Lastly, Mel Gibson's drunken-driving arrest and comments concerning Jews at the time it was made appears to have done little to diminish his popularity among Americans, poll results indicated. Fifty-two percent said they did not believe Gibson is anti-Semitic, and 58 percent said they are still among Gibson's fans.

The poll was conducted August 2-3 by telephone with adult Americans. The margin of error for most questions is plus or minus 3 percentage points; on the questions concerning Rice, the margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

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