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Five Key Takeaways from Gallup’s Annual Poll That Found American Support for Israel At Record High

The survey is a reminder that American policy is pro-Israel because Americans have long been pro-Israel, not because of any shadowy conspiracy

Yair Rosenberg
March 15, 2018
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
A pro-Israel activist in front of the White House, September 2, 2010.Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
A pro-Israel activist in front of the White House, September 2, 2010.Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

This week, Gallup released their annual poll on American attitudes towards Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As it has for decades, the survey showed overwhelming American support for Israel, both in the context of the conflict and outside it.

Overall, the poll found that support for Israel has hit its previous record high of 64 percent, first reached in 1991 at the height of the Gulf War and then again in 2013:

The survey also found that “Americans are about twice as likely to say the U.S. should put more pressure on the Palestinians (50%) than on the Israelis (27%) to resolve the conflict between the two peoples, similar to views in 2013.”

Some key takeaways from the polling data:

1. While news reports tend to emphasize shifts in polls like these because changes make for exciting headlines, what is remarkable about the polling on Israel is how consistent it has been. Notably, despite endless talk about the Democratic party “turning against Israel” under Obama, Democratic support for Israel is essentially the same in 2018 (49%) as it was when Obama took office in 2008 (48%). Likewise, support for Israel has continued to trend up overall, despite the stream of partisan bickering over Obama’s Iran deal and Trump’s Jerusalem move. To the extent that far-left activists are pushing the Democratic party to be more antagonistic to Israel, then, they are pushing against its own voters.

2. Israel is viewed even more positively than head-to-head polling about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would indicate. When asked simply whether they viewed Israel favorably (rather than to choose a side in the conflict), large majorities of respondents said they did: “83% of Republicans, 72% of independents and 64% of Democrats view Israel favorably.” This data suggests that steps towards peace would boost Israel’s standing even more among Americans, as such progress would close the gap between the country’s lower polling within the context of the conflict and its higher polling outside it.

3. Like most issues in polarized American politics, the middle ground on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is fast eroding. As can be seen in the top poll above, not only did support for Israel over the Palestinians reach a record high in 2018, but those respondents who answered “both/neither/unsure” hit a record low. Whereas Americans might once have been inclined to say they supported both Israelis and Palestinians—as many American Jews currently do—today that middle has been hollowed out. Those seeking a peaceful solution to the conflict will need to fight this zero-sum trend if they are to succeed.

4. Support for Israel is higher among older brackets, but still robust among the young. As Gallup puts it, “Israel also receives higher favorable ratings from adults 55 and older (80% favorable) than from those 35 to 54 (72%) or 18 to 34 (65%). Conversely, the Palestinian Authority receives somewhat better ratings from adults 18 to 34 (31% favorable) than from those 35 to 54 (15%) or 55 and older (18%).”

5. Finally, as it does every year, this poll illustrates the reason why American foreign policy has long been pro-Israel: because Americans have long been pro-Israel. In other words, contrary to the fulminations of anti-Semites, there is no conspiracy or shadowy cabal setting the American agenda on Israel; there is simply democracy reflecting the will of the voters.

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.