Democrats Grow Even Further Apart in Views of Israel, Palestinians
Pew Research Center
January 23, 2018
Netanyahu remains a deeply polarizing figure in the U.S.
The partisan divide in Middle East sympathies, for Israel or the
Palestinians, is now wider than at any point since 1978. Currently, 79% of
Republicans say they sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians, compared
with just 27% of Democrats.
Since 2001, the share
of Republicans sympathizing more with Israel than the Palestinians has increased
29 percentage points, from 50% to 79%. Over the same period, the share of
Democrats saying this has declined 11 points, from 38% to 27%.
The latest national
survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Jan. 10-15 among 1,503 adults, finds
that 42% say Donald Trump is “striking the right balance” in the situation
in the Middle East, while 30% say he favors Israel too much (just 3% say Trump
sides too much with the Palestinians; 25% do not offer an opinion).
At a similar point in
Barack Obama’s presidency, 47% of Americans said he had struck a proper
balance in dealing with the Middle East; 21% said he sided too much with the
Palestinians, while 7% said he favored Israel too much.
The survey finds that
while Republicans and Democrats are deeply divided in views of Israel, so too do
they differ markedly in opinions about Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime
minister. Nearly three times as many Republicans (52%) as Democrats (18%) have
favorable impressions of Israel’s leader.
About half of Americans
say a two-state solution is possible in the Middle East: 49% say a way can be
found for Israel and an independent Palestinian state “to coexist
peacefully,” while 39% say this is not possible. Democrats are far more likely
than Republicans to say a two-state solution is possible (58% vs. 40%).
When asked about the dispute between Israel and the
Palestinians, 46% of Americans say they sympathize more with the Israelis, 16%
say they sympathize more with the Palestinians and about four-in-ten (38%)
either volunteer that their sympathies are with both (5%), neither (14%) or that
they do not know (19%). The overall balance of opinion has fluctuated only
modestly since 1978, when 45% said they sympathized more with Israel, 14% with
the Palestinians and 42% could not decide.
But the partisan divide
has widened considerably, especially over the past two decades. The share of
Republicans who sympathize with Israel has never been higher, dating back four
Nearly eight-in-ten Republicans (79%) sympathize more with Israel
than the Palestinians, while just 6% sympathize more with the Palestinians;
another 7% say they sympathize with both or neither, while 9% say they do not
As was the case last
year, Democrats are divided in views of the Middle East conflict: Currently, 27%
of Democrats say they sympathize more with Israel, while 25% say they sympathize
more with the Palestinians; another 23% say they sympathize with neither or both
sides and one-quarter (25%) say they don’t know. Democrats also were divided
last year, when 33% said they sympathized with Israel and 31% said the
Palestinians. Since then, the share of Democrats saying they don’t know has
increased from 17% to 25% and the share saying they sympathize with both or
neither has ticked up slightly from 19% to 23%.
As recently as two years ago, in April 2016, Democrats
were more likely to sympathize more with Israel (43%) than with the Palestinians
(29%), with 16% saying they sympathized with both or neither.
Among Democrats, the
decline over the last few years in those who say they sympathize more with
Israel is seen both among liberals and among conservatives and moderates.
The share of liberal
Democrats who sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians has declined
from 33% to 19% since 2016. Currently, nearly twice as many liberal Democrats
say they sympathize more with the Palestinians than with Israel (35% vs. 19%);
22% of liberal Democrats sympathize with both sides or neither side and 24% do
not offer an opinion.
conservative Democrats continue to sympathize more with Israel (35%) than the
Palestinians (17%). However, the share of conservative and moderate Democrats
who sympathize more with Israel has declined 18 percentage points since 2016
(from 53% to 35%).
There has been less change since 2016 among
Republicans: Large majorities of both conservative Republicans (81%) and
moderate and liberal Republicans (70%) continue to say they sympathize more with
Israel than the Palestinians.
As in the past, there
are wide religious differences in Middle East sympathies. White evangelical
Protestants continue to overwhelmingly sympathize with Israel: 78% say this,
while just 5% sympathize more with the Palestinians.
Other religious groups
sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians, though by much smaller
margins. Religiously unaffiliated people are divided: 29% sympathize more with
the Palestinians, 26% more with Israel and 24% say they side with both or
Young people are more
divided than older adults in where their sympathies lie in the
Israeli-Palestinian dispute. About a third of those under 30 (32%) say they
sympathize more with Israel, compared with 23% who sympathize more with the
Palestinians. Those in older age groups sympathize more with Israel by wide
At this early point in his term, a plurality (42%) of
Americans say that Trump is “striking the right balance” when it comes to
Middle East policy. Three-in-ten (30%) say Trump favors Israel too much, while
just 3% say Trump favors the Palestinians too much; 25% do not offer an opinion.
At a roughly comparable
point in Obama’s presidency (April of his second year in office), 47% said he
struck the right balance, while more said he favored the Palestinians (21%) than
Israel (7%) too much.
Today, nearly half of
Democrats (46%) say Trump favors Israel too much, while just 21% say he is
striking the right balance. In 2010, more Republicans said Obama supported the
Palestinians too much (38%) than said he struck the right balance.
Trump gets high marks
from his own party for handling the Middle East (73% of Republicans say he is
striking the right balance). Eight years ago, 66% of Democrats said the same
Opinions of Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin
Netanyahu, are basically unchanged from last year. About as many say they have a
favorable view (31%) as an unfavorable opinion (28%) of Netanyahu; 41% express
no opinion of Israel’s prime minister.
particularly conservative Republicans, have positive views of Netanyahu on
balance. Six-in-ten conservative Republicans (60%) view Netanyahu favorably,
while just 13% have an unfavorable opinion.
Democrats’ views of
Netanyahu are much more negative. And among liberal Democrats, more than three
times as many have an unfavorable view of Netanyahu (49%) than a favorable
Americans continue to be divided in their views of
whether or not a way can be found for Israel and an independent Palestinian
state to coexist peacefully. About half (49%) say that it is possible, while
about four-in-ten (39%) say it is not.
Views about prospects
for a two-state solution are correlated with Middle East sympathies: Among those
who sympathize more with Israel, 40% say a way can be found for Israel and an
independent Palestinians state to coexist peacefully. Among those who sympathize
more with the Palestinians, 64% say a two-state solution is possible.