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October 29, 2020 6:41 am

The American Public and Israel in the 21st Century

avatar by Eytan Gilboa


The Western Wall and Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Supportive public opinion has been a key factor in the formation and development of the US-Israel “special relationship.” This monograph presents and analyzes long-term trends in American attitudes toward Israel since 2000, and is based on the collection, integration, and analysis of data from numerous national public opinion surveys conducted in the US by the most reliable and reputable polling agencies.

This study includes five chapters. The first, the milieu of opinion formation, provides brief information on key factors that influence the adoption and evolution of opinions toward Israel. The second explores views of Israel, perceptions of Israel as an American ally, and opinions on US military aid to Israel. The third presents trends in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including views of Israel and of the Palestinian Authority, sympathies with the respective sides, and opinions on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. The fourth explores opinions on Iran, mostly on the highly controversial nuclear deal of 2015. The final chapter presents and analyzes socio-demographic dimensions.

This study attempts to overcome two major deficiencies in public opinion research. Certain studies focus on the results of specific polls and do not place them within long-term trends, and most present data and interpretations are divorced from their political and strategic contexts. These contexts influence the shaping of opinions and are essential to explain fluctuations over time. This study provides both long-term trends and relevant political and strategic contexts.

The trends reveal strong and stable support for Israel in American public opinion on all the issues discussed in this study. The socio-demographic data and analysis, however, show serious cracks. Significant differences were found between the attitudes of Republicans and Democrats, younger and older people, and even different groups of American Jews.

A long-term Israeli strategy must consider the positions and values of the groups that are less supportive, the predicted demographic changes in American society, and the challenge of curbing the anti-Israel poisoning of students who will be assuming major elected and appointed positions in the next decades.

The report cited above can be accessed by visiting the BESA Center.

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