Polls on Israel—Again
March 27, 2019
has released its annual survey on American public opinion towards Israel, and
the reactions were predictably a mixture of hysteria and misinformation.
was this Haaretz headline — “New Poll Shows Support for Israel
Plummeting Among U.S. Liberals, Millennials and Women” — and this one from The
Times of Israel: “New poll: Americans’ support for Israel falls to lowest
point in a decade.”
the data really that dire?
what Gallup analyst Lydia Saad concluded:
overall views toward Israel and the Palestinian Authority have changed little in
the past year, with roughly seven in 10 viewing Israel very or mostly favorably
and two in 10 viewing the Palestinian Authority in the same terms. … While
liberal Democrats are no less favorable toward Israel today than they have been
over the past two decades, they have grown more favorable toward the
should the pro-Israel community be worried?
is true that overall support for Israel did fall from its all-time high of 64
percent to 59 percent — its lowest point since 2009. Nevertheless, that figure
is still well above the historical average of 48 percent registered in the 89
Gallup polls since the Six-Day War.
support for Israel has been on the upswing. In the 1970s, the average level of
support for Israel was 44 percent; in the 1980s and 1990s, it was 47 percent,
including the record highs during the Gulf War. Since 2000, support for Israel
is averaging 54 percent.
Gallup asked respondents their opinion
of different countries, 69 percent said that they had a favorable opinion of
Israel, ranking it eighth behind Canada, the UK, Japan, Germany, France, India,
and South Korea. By contrast, just 21 percent of Americans had a favorable
opinion of the Palestinian Authority, placing it near the bottom of the rankings
with Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and North Korea.
real hysteria has focused on an alleged decline in Democratic support for
Israel. But the data does not justify such concern. Yes, 76 percent of
Republicans compared to 43 percent of Democrats were more sympathetic towards
Israel than the Palestinians. This sounds bad — unless you know that support
among Democrats in 37 polls since 1993 averaged 46 percent. Support
for Israel was lower than that in the mid-1970s.
support for the Palestinians has increased to an average of 20 percent since
1993 (30 percent this year), and that is more than double the percentage of
Republicans. Is this alarming? Perhaps, especially if you look at ideological
differences in support for Israel and the Palestinians: conservatives (76
percent-11 percent), moderates (43 percent-30 percent), and liberals (43
percent-30 percent). This is consistent with the general view that liberals have
become more critical of Israel and supportive of the Palestinians, while the
opposite is true of conservatives.
the other hand, support for Israel among liberal Democrats has remained
consistent for a decade. Furthermore, when asked their attitude toward Israel
this year, 58 percent of liberal Democrats and 66 percent of
moderate/conservative Democrats had a favorable view, and only nine percent
viewed Israel very unfavorably.
real story is the growth of Republican support for Israel. Back in the
mid-1970s, Republicans were more supportive than Democrats, but their numbers
were in the 40s and the partisan gap was virtually zero. Since 1993, however,
Republicans have averaged 67 percent with a partisan gap of 22 points (it was 33
points this year).
has also been a lot of discussion about declining support for Israel among
younger Americans. That notion is bolstered by the data on sympathy for Israel
and the Palestinians across age groups: 18-34 (47 percent-29 percent), 35-54 (57
percent-21 percent), and 55+ (70 percent-15 percent).
should not be surprising, however, if put into historical context. Older
Americans are typically more sympathetic to Israel. The disparity across age
groups may appear alarming; however, if past trends persist, today’s
young people will become more supportive of Israel over time. Of course, Jews
being Jews, that “if” is magnified when we read exaggerated accounts of the
situation towards Israel and Jews on college campuses.
what about the whole notion of a “Jexodus” of Jews leaving the Democratic
Party for the Republicans?
this headline, “U.S. Jews’ Support for Trump at Serious Low Despite
anti-Democratic Campaign, Poll Finds.” According to Gallup, only 26 percent of
Jews approve of Trump’s conduct as president while 71 percent disapprove.
Guess what? In 2016, 71 percent of Jews voted for
Clinton and 24 percent for Trump, the historical averages for Democratic and
Republican candidates since 1968.
poll also found that “only 16 percent” of Jews identified as Republican.
That is exactly the same percentage that the American Jewish Committee found in
its 2018 survey. The only place where that figure is expected to change is in
the fantasies of Republicans.
unhappy as Jews may be with the Democrats, especially with regard to the
antisemites now in Congress, they are not going to join a party whose leader
they disagree with on virtually every issue. Many liberal Jews do not even agree
with what other Jews consider positive steps that Trump has taken toward Israel,
such as moving the embassy, pulling out of the Iran deal, and now recognizing Israeli
sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
is possible that Jewish votes could shift in the presidential election. It is
unlikely, however, that their support for Democrats in Congress would change;
therefore, Republicans can only dream about a realignment.
best chance for Republicans to pick up Jewish votes is if the Democrats nominate
one of the candidates from the far-left for the presidency. Even then, unless it
is someone hostile to Israel, it is unlikely that Trump will significantly
increase his share of the Jewish vote. Absent some catastrophic revelation of
wrongdoing, most Jews who supported Trump are likely to stay with him based on
— among other things — his pro-Israel policies.
is not only my opinion. Responding to Trump’s tweet that “Jewish people are
leaving the Democratic Party,” Frank Newport, a Gallup senior scientist, said
that “the stability of Jewish support for the Democratic Party over the past
decade suggests that such a shift in allegiance is unlikely.”