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Americans, but Not Liberal Democrats, Mostly Pro-Israel

Americans, but Not Liberal Democrats, Mostly Pro-Israel

Story Highlights

  • Americans' partiality toward Israel in Mideast conflict slips to 59%
  • Sympathy for Palestinians much lower at 21%, but highest historically
  • Liberal Democrats are only party/ideology group not partial to Israel

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The majority of Americans remain partial toward Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with 59% saying they sympathize more with the Israelis whereas 21% sympathize more with the Palestinians. While still widespread, sympathy toward Israel is down from 64% in 2018 and marks the lowest percentage favoring Israel since 2009. Meanwhile, the 21% sympathizing more with the Palestinians, statistically unchanged from a year ago, is the highest by one point in Gallup's trend since 2001.

Line Graph. Most Americans, 59% say their sympathies lie with Israel in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

These results are based on Gallup's annual World Affairs survey, conducted each February. The 2019 poll was conducted Feb. 1-10 prior to Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar's recent remarks questioning U.S. support for Israel and suggesting that some supporters of Israel are pushing for "allegiance to a foreign country." Omar's statements have sparked a firestorm, with some in Congress calling for her to be censured or removed from her position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, while others, such as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have come to her defense.

Republicans' Pro-Israel Stance Eases From Last Year's High

The slight decline in U.S. sympathies toward Israel in the past year can be explained by drops among both major party groups.

The percentage of Republicans saying they sympathize more with Israel in the conflict fell from an all-time high of 87% in 2018 to 76% today. Last year's reading was taken as the Donald Trump administration was preparing to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, a change that highlighted Trump's strong support of Israel.

The percentage of Democrats siding more with Israel fell less sharply, from 49% to 43%; however, today's figure approaches the lowest level of Democratic partiality toward Israel since 2005.

The views of political independents are unchanged.

Line graph. Seventy-six percent of Republicans’ sympathies lie with Israel, compare to 43% of Democrats who say the same.

Another way to evaluate the shifts over time in the two major party groups' views toward the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is to review net sympathies toward Israel -- the percentage who sympathize more with Israel minus those sympathizing more with the Palestinians -- among the main ideological groups within each party.

On this basis, it's clear that conservative Republicans have long been the most partial to Israel in the conflict, given their consistently high net-sympathy ratings. Moderate/liberal Republicans have the second-highest net-sympathy for Israel, followed by moderate/conservative Democrats, while liberal Democrats have the lowest net sympathy for Israel.

Apart from the rank order, the gaps in net sympathy for Israel between the groups have been widening, with sympathy for Israel increasing among both Republican groups and decreasing among both Democratic groups.

Line graph. The gap between conservative Republicans’ and liberal Democrats’ net support for Israel has expanded from an average 49 points in 2001-2004 to 78 points in 2017-2019.

In terms of recent changes, however, most of the decline in net sympathy for Israel has occurred among liberal Democrats, from +17 in 2013-2016 to +3 in 2017-2019. What this means is that nearly as many liberal Democrats now sympathize more with the Palestinians (38%) as with the Israelis (41%), with the rest favoring neither side or unsure.

Seven in 10 Continue to View Israel Favorably

The same poll updates Gallup's annual trend in Americans' overall views toward Israel and the Palestinian Authority on a four-part scale from very favorable to very unfavorable. The total percentages now viewing each favorably are roughly similar to where they have been in recent years.

  • Sixty-nine percent of U.S. adults view Israel very or mostly favorably, down from 74% last year but within the 66% to 72% range seen between 2010 and 2017.
  • Twenty-one percent view the Palestinian Authority favorably, identical to last year and similar to the finding most years since 2010.
Line graph. Sixty-nine percent of Americans view Israel favorably, while 21% say the same of the Palestinian Authority.

Reviewing these favorable trends by ideological groups within party reveals that all groups, including liberal Democrats, have maintained a largely favorable view of Israel since 2001. In fact, the average percentages viewing Israel favorably in the last three years (coincident with Trump's presidency) are higher than the averages from 2001-2004.

Line graph. A comparison of favorable attitudes toward Israel among U.S. political parties’ ideological groups.

At the same time, liberal and moderate/conservative Democrats have grown more favorable toward the Palestinian Authority than they were in the early 2000s, while the views of all Republican ideologies are close to the baseline time-period.

Line graph. A comparison of favorable attitudes toward the Palestinian Authority among U.S. political party’s ideological groups

Bottom Line

Americans' overall views toward Israel and the Palestinian Authority have changed little in the past year, with roughly seven in 10 viewing Israel very or mostly favorably and two in 10 viewing the Palestinian Authority in the same terms.

At the same time, the new poll finds a slight softening of Americans' partiality toward Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly among moderate/liberal Republicans and, to a lesser extent, liberal Democrats.

While liberal Democrats are no less favorable toward Israel today than they have been over the past two decades, they have grown more favorable toward the Palestinians and, perhaps as a result, less likely to side with Israel in the conflict. On average from 2017-2019, liberal Democrats have been nearly as likely to be pro-Palestinian as pro-Israeli in their views on the conflict, and that is very different from Republicans, and to a lesser extent moderate/conservative Democrats who remain more solidly in Israel's corner.

View complete question responses and trends (PDF download).

Learn more about how the Gallup Poll Social Series works.

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