Americans More Divided Over Israel 'Than at Any Point' in Recent History, Study Finds

Pew claims that while 79% of Republicans say they sympathize with Israel more than the Palestinians, the same is true for only 27% of Democrats

FILE PHOTO: Evangelical Christians from various countries wave flags as they march to show their support for Israel in Jerusalem.
Sebastian Scheiner/AP

WASHINGTON - A new poll by the Pew Research Center, a leading U.S. public opinion research institute, shows that the partisan divide in the United States over Israel is now "wider than at any point" in the last four decades. According to the poll, while 79% of Republicans say they sympathize with Israel more than the Palestinians, the same is true for only 27% of Democrats.

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In a press release published on Tuesday, the research center noted that "Since 2001, the share of Republicans sympathizing more with Israel than the Palestinians has increased 29 percentage points, from 50% to 79%. Over the same period, the share of Democrats saying this has declined 11 points, from 38% to 27%."

The survey shows a continuing trend of deterioration in support for Israel among self-identifying liberal Democrats. "The share of liberal Democrats who sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians has declined from 33% to 19% since 2016," the authors note - a sharp decline for just one year, which could be connected to negative attitudes among liberals towards President Trump and his attempts to present himself as strongly "pro Israel."

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The authors of the survey also note that "nearly twice as many liberal Democrats say they sympathize more with the Palestinians than with Israel - 35% vs. 19%."

Among self-identifying moderate and conservative Democrats, Israel still enjoys more support than the Palestinians, but within this group there has also been a sharp decline since 2016, from 53% to 35%.

Among Republicans, however, there has not been a significant change in support for Israel.

Pew has been examining support for Israel among the American public for decades.

The survey also shows clear generational differences with regards to Israel. While 56% of Americans over the age of 65 they say support Israel more than the Palestinians, the same is true for only 32% of those between the ages of 18-29. Within that age group, 23% say they sympathize more with the Palestinians, and 19% sympathize with neither side or have no opinion.

Education also plays a role in shaping attitudes on the subject. 51% of Americans with a high-school degree or less say they sympathize more with Israel, while 9% sympathize more with the Palestinians. Among college graduates, 42% sympathize more with Israel while 27% sympathize more with the Palestinians.

The survey showed that overall, 42% of Americans think President Trump is "striking the right balance" between Israel and the Palestinians, while 30% think he favors Israel too much. 25% did not have an opinion on the matter. Among Democrats, 46% said Trump favors Israel too much. The authors noted that at a similar point in Barack Obama's presidency, 21% of the American public and 38% of Republicans thought Obama was favoring the Palestinians too much.

As the Trump administration continues to work on its plan for Middle East peace, the survey's authors noted that "about half of Americans say a two-state solution is possible in the Middle East: 49% say a way can be found for Israel and an independent Palestinian state “to coexist peacefully,” while 39% say this is not possible."