In a Gallup poll taken May 7-9, 1999, an overwhelming majority of 83% of Americans said the upcoming Israeli election was somewhat or very important to the interests of the United States. More than two-thirds (68%) also had a favorable opinion of Israel.
The U.S. public also had a low opinion of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was viewed favorably by only 34% of Americans, down from 46% in December (though up from a low of 23% in April 1997). Still a plurality of respondents (41%-31% preferred to see Netanyahu reelected.
Although Netanyahu was not viewed very favorably, he was viewed negatively by only 20% of the respondents. Most Americans either never heard of him or had no opinion. By contrast, nearly half of Americans have consistently had an unfavorable opinion of Yasir Arafat. In 1994, 52% had a negative opinion of him and in the most recent poll the figure was 44%, with 26% holding a favorable view.
By a margin of 53%-26% Americans also favor the creation of a Palestinian state. This is not surprising as most polls over the last several years have had similar results, though prior Gallup surveys for the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations showed only pluralities in favor of Palestinian statehood.
On the question most consistently asked by pollsters, "In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies with the Israelis or more with the Palestinian Arabs?" the results were consistent with past surveys, with 46% saying Israelis and 13% Palestinians. This was the highest figure for Israel since August 1991.