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Poll: Third of Canadians say PM's trip to Israel a success; most have no opinion

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OTTAWA - Almost half of Canadians followed Prime Minister Stephen Harper's recent trip to the Middle East, and a third said they had positive views of his inaugural visit to the region, a new poll has found.

The survey, conducted from Jan. 23-Jan. 27 by Harris/Decima for The Canadian Press, suggests a third of Canadians held a favourable impression of Harper's first foray to the Middle East.

Twenty-six per cent, meantime, said they held an unfavourable view.The majority of those polled, however — 42 per cent — said they had no opinion.

The survey also suggested a clear majority of Canadians feel it's important for prime ministers to make international trips like Harper made last month to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

Nationally, 22 per cent said such overseas trips are very important to a prime minister while 41 per cent said they were somewhat important. Ontarians were more likely than Quebecers, at 67 per cent and 58 per cent respectively, to say such trips are significant.

More than a third of those polled said the primary benefit of prime ministerial trips is diplomacy and strengthening international relations. Only 12 per cent pointed to economic benefits, and even fewer — nine per cent — said they're important in raising Canada's profile.

Fifty-nine per cent of those polled believe Harper's visit will have a positive impact on Canada's ties with Israel. But respondents were divided evenly on what the trip would mean for Canada's relationship with the Palestinian Authority: 32 per cent expect a positive impact, while 31 per cent anticipated a negative one.

Fifty-four per cent, meantime, said the Middle East trip would elevate Canada's reputation in the world.

"A majority of Canadians share a view that trips such as the one the prime minister recently made to the Middle East are important and it clearly captured some fairly broad domestic attention," said Doug Anderson, senior vice-president of Harris/Decima.

"In this case, we also found that more Canadians were left with a favourable impression than an unfavourable impression of the trip overall."

The survey of 1,010 Canadians is considered accurate to a margin of plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Harper received a hero's welcome in Israel when he visited the Jewish state from Jan. 19 to the 22nd before spending two days in the kingdom of Jordan, a critical Israeli ally in the region.

The prime minister was repeatedly lauded as a true friend to Israel by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Harper was also greeted with standing ovations at the Knesset when he made a strong defence of the country in a speech to its parliamentarians, and was also mobbed at the Western Wall.

In a brief visit to the West Bank to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian Authority, Harper pledged $66 million in new aid to the Palestinians.

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