While the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is likely to wax and wane as events transpire, Americans continue to be highly attuned to the proceedings. Despite a bump in the public's interest in foreign affairs due to the events and aftermath of Sept. 11, Americans are still, in large part, indifferent to most foreign news. Israel, which has long captured much of the foreign news coverage in this country, is one of the few perennial exceptions.
Given the escalating violence and an increasing desire for peace, the public is paying attention now more than ever. In a mid-December poll conducted by Princeton Research Associates for the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, more than 7 in 10 said they're following the story about continued violence in the Middle East between the Palestinians and the Israelis very or fairly closely, up from 54 percent who were doing so back in August 2001. Only 9 percent in December said they're not paying attention at all, down from 20 percent back in August.
According to the latest polls as of press time — a March 2002 Gallup survey — Americans find fault on both sides of the conflict, though more tend to see the Palestinians as responsible for the current violence. Eighty-two percent say that the Palestinians bear a great deal or moderate amount of the blame, compared with 72 percent who say the same for the Israelis. A March Harris Interactive poll found that the percentage of people blaming both sides equally had risen to 44 percent from 26 percent last July. Those mainly blaming the Palestinians increased somewhat as well, to 32 percent from 26 percent.