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Poll: Most Americans say Tibet should be independent

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China on the Dalai Lama
  • Most support Tibetan independence from China, CNN poll says
  • Poll also suggests 56 percent of Americans have favorable view of Dalai Lama
  • President Obama to meet with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader on Thursday
  • Tibet
  • Dalai Lama
  • China

Washington (CNN) -- Nearly three-quarters of all Americans think Tibet should be an independent country, according to a new national poll.

However, the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Thursday also indicates that most Americans think it is more important to maintain good relations with China than to take a stand on Tibet.

The poll's release came as President Obama was to meet with the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader in exile, at the White House.

The Dalai Lama is popular with Americans, according to the survey, with 56 percent holding a favorable view of him and only 18 percent having an unfavorable impression.

"That puts him in the same neighborhood as other major religious figures," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Favorable ratings for the pope, at 59 percent, and Billy Graham, at 57 percent, are virtually identical to the numbers for the Dalai Lama."

The poll also indicates that 53 percent say it's more important for the United States to take a strong stand on human rights in China than to maintain good relations with Beijing, with 44 percent saying good relations are more important.

Analysis: Meeting could hurt relations with China

By a 6-point margin, the survey also shows that more Americans say taking a strong stand on Taiwan by force is more important than maintaining good relations with Beijing.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll was conducted February 12-15, with 1,023 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the overall survey.

CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story.