Democrats More Sympathetic to Palestinians than Israelis for First Time: Report
by Andrew Bernard
In a new poll released Thursday, sympathy among US Democrats was higher for the Palestinians than Israelis for the first time since the Gallup polling service began asking the question in 2001.
Gallup’s poll of 1,008 US adults found that Democrats now hold an 11 point net negative view of Israel, favoring Palestinians by a 49 to 38 margin.
In total, 54% of Americans sympathize more with the Israelis, the lowest figure Gallup has recorded since January 2005, and 31% with the Palestinians, the highest it has ever recorded.
That shift, the report said, is driven by younger Americans, who have a more mixed opinion of Israel than their elders.
“Net sympathy toward Israel — the percentage sympathizing more with the Israelis than the Palestinians — is solidly positive among older generations, including baby boomers (+46 points), Generation X (+32) and the Silent Generation (+31),” Gallup writes in the March 16 report. “By contrast, millennials are now evenly divided, with 42% sympathizing more with the Palestinians and 40% with the Israelis, yielding a -2 net-Israel sympathy score.”
While Democrats are now more sympathetic towards the Palestinians, a 56% majority still hold a very or mostly favorable view of Israel itself.
Mark Mellman, a longtime Democratic pollster and president of Democratic Majority for Israel, told The Algemeiner that he believed that the polling question is flawed and that support for Israel remains strong within the party, even if it’s waning with some of the electorate.
“Some people no doubt respond to who they feel ‘sorrier’ for and I’d wager a lot of very pro-Israel people feel sorrier for the Palestinians at this moment,” Mellman said. “All that said it’s clear that the presidential and congressional wings of the party remain strongly pro-Israel even as we all struggle with some specific policies of the current Israeli government. But we’ve been able to defeat anti-Israel resolutions at state and national party conventions across the country making clear that Democratic activists are also pro-Israel. But it’s no secret that support for Israel is fraying among some key constituencies.”
Support for Israel in recent years has become a dividing line between the Democratic party’s rank and file and its progressive left flank. The so-called “Squad” of progressive lawmakers led by Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) in May 2022 introduced a “Nakba” resolution in the House, a term meaning “catastrophe” that is used by Palestinians to refer to the establishment of the State of Israel. And pro-Israel groups have made Democratic primaries a key battleground for campaign spending.
Republicans and Independents, by contrast, remain more sympathetic to Israel by double digit percentages, although support for the Palestinians among Independents is growing.
The poll, conducted from Feb. 1-23, comes amid domestic political chaos in Israel and a surge in violence from the West Bank. Saturday saw the 10th weekend of mass protests in Israeli cities, with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators turning out to oppose the judicial reform bills supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel’s President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday presented a compromise on the reform plan and warned of the consequences of failure.
“Anyone who thinks that a genuine civil war, with human lives, is a line that we could never reach has no idea what he is talking about. It is precisely now, in the State of Israel’s 75th year of independence, that the abyss is within touching distance,” Herzog said.
Netanyahu rejected the proposal ahead of his trip to Germany.
While support for Israel among elected Democrats, including President Biden, remains strong, officials have taken a cooler view towards the new Netanyahu government.
During his trip to Washington, DC, on Sunday, no Biden administration officials met with Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and Israeli media report that Netanyahu has instructed other ministers not to visit Washington until he has received an invitation to visit the White House. As of Thursday, no such invitation is forthcoming.