Poll: Americans Disapprove of Netanyahu Invitation, but Want Obama to Meet Him Anyway

New poll shows sharp partisan and racial divides in attitude towards speech, with African Americans voicing the highest disapproval.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem
U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a joint press conference in Jerusalem, March 2013. Yonatan Zindel/Flash 90

The American public believes that the Republican invitation to Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress was “inappropriate”, but nonetheless maintains that President Obama should meet him during his visit to Washington next month.

According to a Huffington Post/YouGov poll published Wednesday night, 47% of Americans think that Netanyahu’s invitation was inappropriate and only 30% believe it was appropriate. But a clear majority of 58% think that Obama should meet with Netanyahu nonetheless, compared to only 19% who say he should not meet with him.

46% of those polled say that their member of Congress should attend Netanyahu’s speech, 24% say they should not and 30% aren’t sure: the good news for Netanyahu is the plurality in favor or attending his speech, the bad news is that less than half of Americans are sure they want their Congressman or woman to attend. Moreover, among Democrats, a plurality of 39%-30% think that their lawmaker should not attend the speech.

The poll, conducted among 1000 Americans over a four day period from February 4-8, highlights the sharp partisan – and racial – divide in attitudes towards the speech. A clear majority of 50%-29% among Republicans think the House Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu was appropriate, compared to 72% of Democrats who say it was not appropriate. Among independent voters, 41% say it was inappropriate and 31% that it was.

The poll also points to distinct differences to the speech based on race and ethnicity: among whites, disapproval of Boehner’s invitation runs at 47%-30%, but it climbs to 55%-12% among Hispanic Americans and 67%-12% among African Americans. 47% of African Americans do not want their Congressional representative to attend the speech, compared only 16% who do. And African Americans are also the only group that does not support Obama meeting with Netanyahu during his visit.

Most African American Congressmen have said they will boycott the speech, which they view as showing “disrespect” towards the President.