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Gallup Poll: 77 Percent of Americans Place Importance on Middle East Peace Settlement

Aired July 11, 2000 - 2:35 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: President Clinton hopes to make a Middle East peace agreement the cornerstone of his presidential legacy. Americans seem to place similar importance on the process.

Gallup Poll editor-in-chief Frank Newport is in Princeton, New Jersey, with the results of a new poll.

Hi, Frank.

FRANK NEWPORT, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, GALLUP POLL: Hi, Kyra. In fact, you are right.

We have been tracking for a number of years now how important Americans think it is to the United States that the Middle East peace be brought about, and obviously we have invested a lot now, the U.S. has, as a country, with President Clinton hosting that summit.

What we find is, very high numbers here. Our last poll, completed just over the weekend, when we tracked this over time, ended up with 77 percent of Americans saying that it was either very or somewhat important to the United States that a settlement in the Middle East crisis be brought about. Very much behind what is happening in Camp David.

Now, there are two major players other than President Clinton across -- of course, Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak. Americans know Arafat a little better and have a more negative opinion of him, 45 percent unfavorable, 27 percent favorable. We have been tracking that same kind of feeling for a number of years now. Barak is new on the scene, of course. We have just measured him twice, as a matter of fact. Very unknown, 58 percent of Americans have no opinion at all. Of those who do have an opinion, it is more positive than negative, as you can see here.

In fact, when we asked Americans about their sympathies overall: Are your sympathies more with Israel or more with the Palestinians? You can see, consistently, for over 10 years now, it has been the Israelis, maybe not a great surprise. As of this past weekend, we ended up here with 41 percent sympathetic with the Israelis, just 14 percent with the Palestinians. The rest say they really don't have an opinion either way.

Despite all of that, when we ask Americans: Should the United States take sides on this issue and try to back one side or the other? The answer from the public is, no, 74 percent say: be neutral in these negotiations, and this settlement -- attempt as a settlement. Those who do have a choice come out much more in favor of Israel than the Palestinians.

That is where the American public stands on these Camp David talks. Back to you in Atlanta -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Frank.

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