Obama’s Handling of Israel-Palestine Gets Lowest Scores in Pew Poll

I wrote yesterday about the the results of the latest annual survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. The story noted that, while Obama has retained his popularity in the 21 countries (besides the United States) covered by the survey, and that his handling of U.S. foreign policy generally over the past year and a half received quite high marks, his policies in the Middle East and South Asia — and especially his handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — were altogether another story. Indeed, asked whether they approved or disapproved of Obama’s handling of Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the last received the highest disapproval ratings, suggesting that the perpetuation of that conflict is harmful to U.S. interests not only in the Arab and Islamic worlds — as has been argued recently by Gen. Petraeus, Anthony Cordesman, and Obama himself, among others — but in other parts of the world, notably Europe, as well.

This is Pew’s table on respondents’ answers to the question of whether they approved “of the international policies of President Barack Obama.” It shows the comparison between the 2009 and 2010 results.

Overall, as you can see, an average of 64.4 percent of respondents voiced approval of Obama’s international policies. And while this particular table doesn’t show the disapproval statistics, they came to an average of 31.4 percent. So, on the question of general foreign policy, Obama’s approval/disapproval ratio is better than 2:1.

But if we look at the reaction to Obama’s handling of specific policy issues in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, the approval/disapproval ratio moves into negative territory, hovering around 1:1.4.

On Iraq, majorities or pluralities in nine (Britain, France, Germany Poland, Japan, South Korea, Kenya and Nigeria) of the 21 countries approve of Obama’s performance, while majorities or pluralities in eleven disapprove. Opinion in Spain is evenly split. Overall, an average of 31.7 percent approved, while 46.4 percent disapproved.

The results on Afghanistan were the same, only that Germany was evenly split, and Spain moved into the approval category. Overall, an average of 33.1 percent approved, while 46.4 percent disapproved.

Similarly, pluralities or majorities in ten countries, including both Germany and Spain, approved of Obama’s handling of Iran, while 11 disapproved. Overall, the approval/disapproval ratio was 33:44.4.

But on Obama’s handling of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, approvals outnumbered disapprovals in only seven of the 21 countries, and, among those, the margins were markedly more narrow than in the other three cases. In 17 of the 21 countries (the exceptions being Nigeria, Indonesia, and Turkey), approval of Obama’s performance on Israel-Palestine gained less support than his handling of Iran. Overall, an average of 31 percent approved, while 48.5 percent disapproved of performance on Israel-Palestine — the widest gap of all four issues.

In presenting his findings, Pew’s president, Andrew Kohut, noted that the poll was conducted before the deadly May 31 attack by Israeli commandos on the Gaza aid flotilla which, apart from the Obama administration, elicited condemnation from governments around the world. He suggested that, had the survey been taken after the attack, the gap may well have been wider.

You can study the findings for yourself, but I think this latest survey helps demonstrate how damaging the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to Washington’s — and Obama’s — image in global public opinion and, conversely, how potentially helpful it would be to achieve an internationally acceptable resolution.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. The only time we will see peace in the middle east and a segificant change of USA image positively in rest of the Islamic world is when USA jewish people and their sympathizer beleif and accept that the Jewish state and jewish people are safe and can and will be accomodated to live among the people of the area.

    History confirms that the Jewish people lived for the last 1400 years among Muslem reasonably well.

    years from now, hopefully not long,the very young now from both community will look back and wonder how mistrust and misunderstanding can be fatel

    I urge the U S A jewish people to read more about the past 1400 years. they will discober that Muslems have no issues with the Jewish relegion and people. The problem is Zionism period.

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