Most Israelis Prefer Clinton to Trump - but Expect Greater Pressure From Her Over Peace

Unlike 2012, when Israelis heavily favored Romney over Obama, 43 percent prefer Clinton, while only 26.5 percent support Trump, a new survey finds.

US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump debate during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, on October 9, 2016.
REUTERS/Rick Wilking

More Israelis would rather see Hillary Clinton as U.S. president than Donald Trump - despite the fact that an even larger majority believes Clinton will put greater pressure on Israel to negotiate peace with the Palestinians than Trump, a new poll has found.

In a survey released Sunday by the Israel Democracy Institute and Tel Aviv University as part of their ongoing Peace Index, 43 percent of the Israeli public said they would prefer a Democratic Clinton presidency versus only 26.5 percent favoring a Republican President Trump. 

The survey results show a sharp reversal in party preference when compared with the previous presidential election. In October 2012, the IDI conducted a similar survey and found 57 percent of Israelis preferring the GOP candidate Mitt Romney over incumbent President Barack Obama’s 22 percent.

The majority support for Clinton came despite the belief among Jewish Israelis surveyed by IDI, 63 percent said that the Democratic nominee would, as president, exert more pressure than Trump when it came to getting Israel back to negotiations with the Palestinians. Only 8 percent said they believed Trump would be more forceful than Clinton when it came to the peace process. 

Among Arab respondents, only 30 percent said they believed that Clinton would push Israel to the peace table more forcefully than Trump. A larger percentage of Arabs surveyed - 34 percent - said that they didn’t believe either presidential candidate would exert pressure on Israel. 

The IDI survey was conducted between October 5 and October 9, before the most recent presidential debate and before the latest round of scandals to hit the presidential campaign, sparked by the release of an Access Hollywood “hot mic” that recorded remarks by Trump as he described his ability to make unwanted advances on women. 

IDI senior fellow Prof. Tamar Hermann, co-author of the Peace Index, said that she doubted recent developments would have a significant effect on Israeli attitudes towards the candidates, which IDI has been tracking for the past four months, and, aside from small fluctuations, has remained consistent.

“Israelis are very much looking at this election from afar,” she said, "and appear less invested in the outcome than in 2012 when they were significantly anti-Obama, who was perceived as being hostile to Israel, and Romney as far more sympathetic."

This time around, Hermann says, “No one really knows what Trump’s position vis a vis Israel would be. No one has clear expectations as to what he is going to do.” 

Clinton’s association with Obama’s policies as his secretary of state, she believes, is mitigated by the fact that she is “remembered from her time as First Lady in the Clinton White House” and President Clinton’s popularity reflected favorably on her. 

Reflecting Trump’s cratering numbers in recent U.S. polls, most Israelis appear to believe a Trump White House is a highly unlikely prospect.

According to the survey, 55 percent of the Israeli Jewish public anticipate that Clinton will win the November 8 elections, with less than half that number - 25 percent believing that Trump will triumph. Arab participants in the survey felt similarly - with 57 percent predicting a Clinton win.

Hermann said it was less of an anomaly that Israelis preferred Clinton over Trump despite their belief that a Clinton White House would pressure Israel on peace if the political preferences of Israelis participating in the survey are taken into consideration. 

“The majority of people who are saying Clinton is more likely to put pressure on Israel are divided between left and right. Those on the left think it's a good thing that she will put pressure on Israel, those on the right see it as a negative.” 

Reflecting misgivings about Trump’s character and the uncertainties regarding his views towards the Middle East, left-leaning Israelis appear to favor Clinton by a much more significant majority than rightists favor Trump. In similar questioning by IDI last month, responses were broken down by political and ethnic affiliation, the survey found that Jewish Israelis who identified with the left and the center politically favored Clinton, by 86 percent and 57 percent respectively, as did 58 percent of Arabs surveyed. Self-identified right-wingers supported Trump by 49 percent.