Editor’s Note: Whether it is the war against the Islamic State or threats to Israel’s security, Americans have strong and often wildly different views about the Middle East and the U. role there, and we’re sure to see these expressed as election season gets into full gear.
Yet Americans agree on many things about the Middle East, and political party differences don’t give the full story.
They also tend to favor Israel’s Jewishness more than its democracy, with 32% favoring its Jewishness versus 18% of their counterparts.
Perhaps most telling is this: Of the people who favor sending ground troops to fight ISIS, 46% want the United States to lean toward Israel when mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—compared to 21% among those who oppose sending ground troops.
Second, specific issues that rank very high in public perceptions can themselves provide prisms for evaluating other subsidiary issues.
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For example, opposition to fighting Asad is partly connected to the overriding fear of ISIS, coupled with the assessment of a majority of Americans that the Syrian opposition is simply incapable of defeating both ISIS and the Asad regime, even with much more support from the United States.We do find that there are opinion clusters that may not necessarily be causally related. This human rights prism helped cluster a set of attitudes on a number of issues: Those most concerned about human rights tend to oppose sending ground troops to fight ISIS (62%) and do not support fighting Asad in Syria (74%)—larger percentages than the rest of the population.For example, one of the interesting findings in the poll was that a plurality of Americans is most concerned about protecting human rights when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—more than worrying about U. This prism also results in more even-handed stances toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.Few of those who are most concerned about human rights want the United States to lean toward Israel (17% vs.38% for others) and also heavily favor Israel’s democracy over its Jewishness (88% vs. Only 7% of this group think that Muslims support ISIS (compared to 16% of others) and compared to the rest of the population, they are relatively unworried about ISIS recruiting Americans for attacks at home and abroad.Here, too, the results were consistent across party lines.Overall, 64% of respondents (71% of Republicans, compared to 60% each of Democrats and Independents) say that escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is likely to be used by ISIS to draw more support and to focus attention on confronting Israel and the United States.Shibley Telhami, a professor at the University of Maryland as well as a colleague here at Brookings, and Katayoun Kishi of the University of Maryland show that views of human rights, faith communities, and other belief systems and communities give Americans similar views, leading to clustering on seemingly disparate issues. Our polling indicates there is little difference across party lines on how Americans rank the threat of the Islamic State (also called ISIL or ISIS): 70% of Democrats, 67% of Independents, and 72% of Republicans rank ISIS as the biggest threat facing the United States in the Middle East—far above Iran and Israeli-Palestinian violence (the margin of error is /-3.5%).*** Polling indicates Americans are sometimes sharply divided on some issues of Middle East policy—seemingly across party lines—yet are remarkably united on other issues. At the same time, they differ markedly on their openness to using ground forces if the current air campaign fails: While 53% of Republicans would then support using ground forces, only 36% of Democrats and 31% of Independents would.Again, all of these attitudes seem to have a tangential relationship to each other but are part of a worldview centered on human rights.On the right, we also find a clustering of views that are not necessarily causally linked.