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Wednesday, 11 April, 2001, 09:47 GMT 10:47 UK
US public oppose China apology
Schoolgirl wears a yellow ribbon in support of the detained spy crew
The US public is anxious for the return of the crew
By BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson in Washington

A majority of Americans oppose an apology to China over the collision of a Chinese fighter jet and a US spy plane, according to polls.

And although the Bush administration has taken great pains not to portray the detained crew as hostages, a majority of Americans view them as such.

US President George Bush
Two thirds of the public support Mr Bush's handling of the affair
But the same polls do not indicate that US public opinion is strongly anti-China or is shifting in that direction in response to the current stand-off.

In two separate polls, one by ABC News and the Washington Post and another by USA Today, CNN and Gallup, 54% said the US should not apologise.

In the ABC News/Washington Post poll, 61% of those asked said the US should also not promise China to cut back on spy flights.

However, ABC News' poll also found that opposition to an apology is not broad. It found that 40% favour an apology.

Party splits

Beneath those percentages, pollsters found great splits based on political affiliation.

Half of Democrats polled favour an apology, while 39% of independents and only 28% of Republicans support an apology.

Chinese military officer outside US embassy in Beijing
Only 20% of Americas see China as an enemy
The poll did not find such political divisions on other moves that the administration could take to resolve the stand-off. Regardless of political affiliation, most Americans opposed promises to cut back on spy plane flights, and most support trade sanctions.

Predictably, Democrats, Republicans and independents were split on President Bush's handling of the situation.

Overall, Mr Bush received high marks. The ABC News poll found that 64% of Americans approve of the president's handling of the situation.

But just 52% of Democrats and 57% of independents approve of Mr Bush's response to the standoff, whereas 87% of Republicans back the president.

Some of the harshest criticism of President Bush's handling of the situation has come from conservatives.

Robert Kagan and William Kristol wrote a scathing editorial criticising the administration's efforts to end the diplomatic deadlock.

"The profound national humiliation that President Bush has brought upon the United States may be forgotten temporarily when the American aircrew, held captive in China as this magazine goes to press, return home," they wrote.

"But when we finish celebrating, it will be time to assess the damage done, and the dangers invited, by the administration's behaviour."

Hostages

The USA Today found that 55% of Americans considered the 24 crew members to be hostages.

And members of Congress - both Republicans and Democrats - are using that term.

Senator Robert Torricelli, Democrat of New Jersey, asked whether it is "appropriate to have both an ambassador and hostages in the same country".

Despite the view of the crew as hostages, US attitudes have not turned staunchly against China.

The ABC poll found Americans more suspicious of China, but added only moderately so. Some 58% polled described China as an unfriendly nation, which is 11 points higher than in 1998.

But only 20% of Americans polled considered China an enemy.

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See also:

11 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
China softens stance on spy plane
11 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Chinese pilot 'caused crash'
09 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan presses for US arms sales
07 Apr 01 | Americas
Analysis: Bush's foreign policy
06 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
China protects vital interests
30 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
China arrests another US academic
08 Apr 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
A Cold War in paradise
09 Apr 01 | Media reports
Bush 'can break impasse'
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