Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the U.S. embassy's inauguration ceremony in Jerusalem, May 2018. Haim Zach/GPO

New Poll Shows Support for Israel Plummeting Among U.S. Liberals, Millennials and Women

Recent Economist-YouGov surveys indicate that the generally positive views of Israel are being steadily eroded in the hyperpolarized Trump era

A new poll released this week highlights the growing imbalance in U.S. public opinion’s support for Israel and the stark demographic similarities between Israel’s strongest supporters and the profile of the average Donald Trump voter. The poll reveals a generally positive view of Israel, but one that is in constant decline and increasingly split along partisan lines.

Comparisons between the new poll and previous Economist/YouGov polls that posed identical questions also corroborate the notion of steady erosion in the number of Americans who are willing to express strong support for Israel. In 2015, 47 percent of Americans described Israel as “an ally.” In 2017, the number was down to 41 percent. In the most recent poll, the figure is even lower, at 37 percent alone.

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Although the polls indicate a slight increase in support for Israel among Republicans/conservatives, it does not offset the sharper drop in support among Democrats/liberals. The poll corroborates other findings that indicate that Israel has become embroiled in the hyper-partisan conflict generated by Trump’s presidency. The perception of close ties between Trump and Israel and between Netanyahu and Trump are definitely pushing Democrats and liberals to distance themselves from the Jewish state.

The comprehensive Economist/YouGov poll of 1,500 U.S. adults, which included scores of questions on Trump’s performance and foreign policy, shows that support for Israel is directly co-related to gender, age, economic status and political outlook. It is strongest among older, well-to-do, conservative white men and weakest among young, liberal, minorities and women.

Perhaps the most surprising and hitherto least reported indication of this disparate support is the gender gap: Asked whether Israel, along with other countries, is seen as friend or foe, 46 percent of men described Israel as an ally compared to only 29 percent of women. Another 25 percent of both sexes described Israel as “friendly.”

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The imbalance is even more pronounced when broken down by other demographic criteria: Only 25 percent of those 18-29-years-old said that Israel was an ally, compared to 55 percent of those over 65. Forty-three percent of whites viewed Israel as an ally, compared to only 19 percent of African Americans and 22 percent of Hispanics. Twenty-nine percent of households earning less that $50K a year viewed Israel favorably but 49 percent of those earning $100K and over did. Twenty-nine percent of those who voted for Clinton in 2016 saw Israel as an ally compared to 65 percent of Trump voters. And 27 percent of liberals say Israel favorable compared to 33 percent of moderates but a whopping 60 percent of conservatives.

The results are generally similar to previous polls, but they point to a sharp drop in support for Israel among those groups whose backing was weaker from the outset. Compared to the results of an identical question posed in August 2017, views of Israel as an ally dropped from 35 percent to 27 percent among liberals, from 40 percent to 29 percent among 2016 Clinton voters; from 26 percent to 19 percent among African Americans and so on.

Overall, 37 percent of Americans view Israel as an “ally” and 25 percent as friendly, compared to only 9 percent who said Israel was “unfriendly” and another 6 percent who actually describe Israel as “an enemy,” with another 23 percent saying that they were “not sure.” Israel’s overall positive results (62 percent view it as either an ally or friendly) pale in comparison to those of Canada (81 percent) and the United Kingdom (80 percent) but are only slightly less positive than those of Germany (68 percent), Japan (69 percent) and South Korea (68 percent).

Needless to say, Israel’s positive results are immeasurably better than those of Turkey (30 percent), China (29 percent), Saudi Arabia (28 percent), Russia (14 percent), North Korea (8 percent and Iran (6 percent). Generally speaking, North Korea (48 percent) and Iran (44 percent) lead the pack of countries explicitly defined as enemies, with Russia (33 percent) not so far behind. Asked what they believe are Trump’s views, only 13 percent said he thinks of Russia as an enemy as well.

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