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Study: Obama’s middle name influences Israeli perceptions

JTA

September 19, 2012 | 1:41 pm

President Barack Obama at Schiller Park in Columbus, Ohio, on Sept. 17. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Barack Obama at Schiller Park in Columbus, Ohio, on Sept. 17. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Obama’s middle name, Hussein, can influence the way he is perceived by Israelis, a new study found.

Researchers at the University of Haifa and University of Texas found that when Obama’s middle name was used to identify him, Israelis saw him as less pro-Israel.

Results of the study, which was published in the journal Political Behavior, were announced Wednesday in a news release.

“Even though the Israeli public has extensive information about the American President and his positions, their opinions can still be swayed by cultural cues, such as a name that in this case is perceived as Arabic,” said the University of Haifa's Israel Waismel-Manor, a co-author of the study, in the news release.

For the study, groups of Israeli Jewish students and Israeli Arab students were shown a 3-minute, 40-second news clip of Obama speaking at an official meeting with Israeli Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Half of each group saw a video in which the president was identified in a caption as “President Barack Obama” and the other half saw him identified as “President Barack Hussein Obama.”

Both the Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews who viewed the video with his middle name saw the president as less pro-Israel than did their counterparts who watched the video that omitted his middle name. But the Israeli Arabs who viewed the video with the middle name also saw Obama less favorably than their counterparts who watched the video without his middle name.

The study also included groups of American college students who sympathized with either the Israel or the Palestinians. Inclusion of Obama’s middle name had no effect on the views of the American students toward him.

Overall, Israeli Jewish participants were more likely to see Obama as less pro-Israel than were Israeli Arab participants, though the Israeli Jews also viewed him more positively than did the Israeli Arabs.

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