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Gallup Poll: How Concerned Are Americans About War in the Middle East?

Aired October 16, 2000 - 1:30 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Most Americans say they are keeping a watchful eye on the developments in the Middle East. Gallup Poll editor-in-chief Frank Newport join us now from Princeton, New Jersey to see how the American public feels about all of this -- Frank.

FRANK NEWPORT, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, GALLUP POLL: Well, Lou, let's set the background for you.

We know from previous polling that solving the Middle East is an important priority for U.S. foreign policy. We found that last summer. It also, when we asked people: Should U.S. officials take a stance one way or the other?" We're showing you this to say 83 percent -- a huge percent said they either don't know or said the U.S. should remain neutral. So that much is clear.

Now, over this past weekend, we updated some indicators that show basically what we have been founding -- finding -- when we ask Americans: Do you favor either the Israeli side or the Palestinian side?

Well, what we find is, you can see 41 percent say Israelis. Very few say Palestinians, 11 percent. But about half of Americans really don't have a choice overall in terms of where their sympathies lie. We'll go back in time a little. When we asked this question in 1991, not surprisingly, a lot of sympathy for the Israeli side at that point. Scud missiles were coming in from Iraq and the Persian Gulf War in that year, as we well remember.

But after that died down, basically speaking, throughout this decade, it's been about the same. American -- plurality of Americans go towards the Israeli side. But a lot of Americans, as you can see here, simply say they don't have a preference one way or the other. Will war break out? Well, it is a concern. A little less than half of Americans are very concerned. It really changes by age, which we find very interesting.

If you are young, you are not concerned that the Middle East may break out into war. Probably you don't remember previous wars. But as Americans get older, they are much more likely to have that as a concern. Finally, this is a story that Americans, Lou, are following closely. About seven out of 10 Americans tells us that they're following this closely, a lot higher than were following the story about the Yugoslav elections, when we asked that a week ago. However, by way of comparison, it's not quite as high as some recent stories, like Firestone, or last year, when American troops were in Bosnia. That's where the U.S. public stands -- Lou.

WATERS: And, Frank, on the concern that the clashes will lead to war: Is there any comparison about how the 65-pluses felt about the danger of war in the past as opposed to now?

NEWPORT: Now, that's a good question, but we have not asked it in exactly that same way, so we don't know for sure. But our anticipation is that what we're finding now, as I mentioned, is because those people remember the '67 war and a lot of the clashes, so they are much more sensitive.

WATERS: Just wondering about the anxiety level. Frank Newport up there at Gallup, we thank you so much. We'll see you again.

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