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AUSTIN, Texas (CBS Houston) — Even the president’s middle name has a negative effect on Israelis.
According to a new study, both Jewish and Arab Israelis perceive President Barack Obama as less pro-Israeli because of his middle name, Hussein.
Dr. Israel Waismel-Manor of the University of Haifa and Dr. Natalie Jomini Stroud of the University of Texas asked a group of Jewish Israeli students, Israeli Arab students, American students who sympathize with Israel and American students with sympathize with Palestinians to watch a news clip of Obama with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Half of each group saw a caption saying “President Barack Obama” while the other half saw “President Barack Hussein Obama.” The Israeli and Arab students who saw the “President Barack Hussein Obama” caption perceived Obama as more anti-Israel. Israeli Jews remarked that “President Barack Hussein Obama” seemed less fair to Israel regarding the Mideast peace process and that he is a less positive person overall.
“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,” Dr. Waismel-Manor said in a press release.
The study also found that Israeli Jews perceived “President Barack Hussein Obama” as more pro-Palestinian than Israeli Arab students did.
“In a world of global media, a seemingly irrelevant detail such as a middle name can affect particular audiences to develop an affinity or aversion to a person,” Dr. Stroud concluded. “It seems that a politician’s decision to use a middle name or omit it – as Obama did in his Cairo speech – can have an impact on certain members of the public.”
Seeing the president’s full name did not affect the American students who participated in the study.