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January 23, 2018 11:06 am

New Pew Poll Reveals Republican Embrace, Democratic Ambivalence, in American Public’s Support of Israel

avatar by Ben Cohen

The US and Israeli flags. Photo: Reuters / Amir Cohen.

Support for Israel among US Republicans is at its highest level in four decades, while Democrats are becoming more indifferent toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with sympathies for both sides showing a notable decline, a new Pew Research Center poll released on Tuesday revealed.

Overall, US public opinion remains well-disposed toward Israel, with nearly half of the 1,503 Americans questioned saying they sympathized with Israel over the Palestinians — reflecting a consistent pro-Israel trend dating back to 1978, the poll observed.

Forty-six percent of Americans said they sympathized more with the Israelis, while just 16 percent saying they sympathized more with the Palestinians. The remainder was split between respondents who said they sympathized with both sides (5 percent), neither side (14 percent), or did not know (19 percent).

Since 2001, the share of Republicans sympathizing more with Israel than the Palestinians has increased 29 percentage points, from 50 percent to 79 percent, the poll showed. “The share of Republicans who sympathize with Israel has never been higher, dating back four decades,” the poll observed.

But the falling support for Israel among Democrats will likely alarm American Jewish organizations, who want to avoid US President Donald Trump’s vocal support for Israel becoming an appealing target for opponents of his administration. Nearly half of the Democrats questioned — 46 percent — said they believed that Trump was biased toward Israel, while only 21 percent said the president had struck “the right balance” between Israel and the Palestinians.

Graphic: Pew Research Center

Trump’s close relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have impacted American perceptions of the Israeli prime minister, with 60 percent of Republicans reporting a positive impression of Netanyahu, and 49 percent of those defined as “liberal” Democrats admitting to an unfavorable view. Among liberal Democrats overall, 35 percent said they supported the Palestinians, with 19 percent choosing Israel.

Critically, indifference to the conflict among Democrats is increasing, with 27 percent of Democrats saying they sympathized more with Israel, while 25 percent said they sympathize more with the Palestinians — a decline of six points for both sides compared to last year. Another 23 percent said they sympathized with neither or both sides and 25 percent said they did not know.

The greatest negative impact of the changes in opinion among Democrats has been on support for Israel, the poll noted. “As recently as two years ago, in April 2016, Democrats were more likely to sympathize more with Israel (43 percent) than with the Palestinians (29 percent), with 16 percent saying they sympathized with both or neither,” the poll said.

Another area of concern will be the poll’s findings on how young Americans view the conflict — though again, Israel receives the greatest share of support.

“Young people are more divided than older adults in where their sympathies lie in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute,” the poll observed. “About a third of those under 30 (32 percent) say they sympathize more with Israel, compared with 23 percent who sympathize more with the Palestinians.”

“Those in older age groups sympathize more with Israel by wide margins,” the poll said.


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