Majority believes U.S. is losing influence in Middle East: poll

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A strong majority of Americans believe that the United States is losing influence in the Middle East, according to a new poll. 

Sixty-nine percent of Americans polled believe America is ceding influence in the region to countries like Russia, Iran and China, according to new results from the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll released exclusively to The Hill on Thursday

The finding comes as the region is the backdrop for heightening tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians, and escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran after President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal. 

Fifty-four percent of those polled said that America should have attempted to renegotiate the Iran deal instead of withdrawing, while 46 percent said that they agreed with the administration’s decision. 

But there was consensus that Iran has violated its end of the bargain — 65 percent believe that Iran isn’t sticking to the terms of the agreement, which rolled back sanctions in exchange for Iran ramping down its development of nuclear weapons.

While a majority of respondents polled didn’t back Trump’s decision in Iran, there’s far stronger support for his decision to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

America had long kept its embassy in Tel Aviv in the hopes of staying neutral in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians who both claim the city as their rightful capital. While Congress had regularly passed a law to move the embassy to Jerusalem as a sign of support for Israel, presidents have ignored that law asserting their right to decide foreign policy.

Trump followed through on his campaign promise and moved the embassy earlier this month. 

Sixty percent of American adults polled say they support that decision, while 40 percent disagreed. But while 40 percent said that the decision was long overdue, 31 percent believed it should only have been moved in exchange for a major concession from Israel.

A near-majority of Americans also put the blame for the violence that occurred during protests in Gaza in the days surrounding the announcement on Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group that governs Gaza. 

More than 50 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during protests along the border. Israel’s backers argue that Hamas is responsible for the deaths, pointing to reports they were cajoling protestors to flood the border fence as well as other reports people were throwing firebombs and flaming kites over the fence into Israel. 

But Palestinian supporters argue Israel is to blame for Israeli soldiers firing upon the protesters.

Forty-nine percent agreed with the administration and said Hamas was at fault for the violence. Twenty-nine percent blamed America for the violence, while 22 percent blamed Israel.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll online survey of 1,347 registered voters was conducted May 21-22. The partisan breakdown is 37 percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican, 29 percent independent and 2 percent other.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard/Harris Poll throughout 2018. 

Full poll results will be posted online later this week. The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.

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