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Half of American Public Favors Independent Palestinian State

Half of American Public Favors Independent Palestinian State

by Jim Norman

Story Highlights

  • Support for Palestine independence climbs to 50% for first time since 2012
  • 62% of Democrats favor an independent state, 33% of Republicans
  • 34% view Israeli-Palestine conflict as a critical threat to the U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- For the first time since 2012, at least half of Americans favor the establishment of an independent Palestinian state "on the West Bank and the Gaza strip."

Line graph. Support and opposition for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, since 1994.

Support for an independent Palestinian state has been edging upward each year since 2015 when it stood at 42%. The highest level of support -- 58% -- was reached in May 2003, at a time when Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had endorsed a peace plan calling for a Palestinian state within three years.

Growing support among Americans for an independent Palestine is occurring amid a national debate in the U.S. about Israel's handling of the conflict and the U.S. government's ongoing support for Israel. Freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar drew strong criticism for her recent remarks that pro-Israel advocates "push for allegiance to a foreign country," although several prominent members of her own party defended her.

Gallup measured Americans' support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state sporadically from 1994 to 2009 and has asked it annually since 2012. Support for an independent state has always been higher than opposition, although the margin between the two shrank to three percentage points in 2017. Low levels of support in the first years the question was asked -- 39% in 1994 and 36% in 1998 -- were partly the result of a high number of Americans expressing no opinion on the subject (41% in 1994 and 38% in 1998).

As first reported by Gallup earlier this month, Americans are more likely to sympathize with the Israelis (59%) than with the Palestinians (21%) in the longstanding Mideast conflict, but there has been a closing of the gap this year. Republicans (76%) are much more likely than Democrats (43%) to sympathize with the Israelis, as has been the case throughout Gallup's trend.

Republicans (33%) and Democrats (62%) also differ significantly in their support for the establishment of an independent Palestine, but that has not always been the case. There was little difference between Republican and Democratic support for Palestinian independence in 2002 and 2003 -- a time of intensive international negotiations during the Republican administration of George W. Bush, that offered some hope that a permanent resolution to the conflict might be achieved. Since 2009, however, there has been a clear partisan gap, with a majority of Democrats supporting independence each of the nine times Gallup has asked the question, while Republicans have always been more likely to oppose it than support it.

Line graph. Support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, by party since 2000.

Fewer Concerned That Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Threatens U.S. Interests

Even as more Americans now favor an independent Palestinian state, fewer than in the past are concerned that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a critical threat to the United States. For the second year in a row, fewer than 40% see it as a critical threat (34% now, 36% in 2018) to the nation's vital interests -- the first times it has dropped below 45% in the eight times it has been asked since 2004. The percentages saying it is an important but not critical issue have been the highest ever in the past two years (48% in 2018, 49% now), and the 14% saying in each of the last two years that it is not an important threat at all have also been the highest ever for the question.

Line graph. Percentages in the U.S. who say conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is a critical threat, since 2004.

Concern that the conflict is a critical threat has lessened among both Republicans and Democrats since Donald Trump became president in January 2017, but the change has been more pronounced among Republicans. Only 36% now say the conflict is a critical threat, a decline of 22 percentage points from 58% in 2016. Among Democrats, 43% in 2016 considered the conflict a critical threat, now 36% feel that way.

Bottom Line

Public opinion in the United States still favors Israel, with a large majority of the public viewing the country favorably and sympathizing more with the Israelis than the Palestinians in that conflict.

While the level of support for Israel among the American public has ebbed and flowed through the years, polls have always shown a solid majority of Americans feeling warmly toward Israel.

Nevertheless, there is also room at the table for Palestinian aspirations, as half of Americans, the most in seven years, now back the idea of Palestinian statehood. At the same time, Americans have become less likely to believe the conflict is a critical foreign issue for their nation. Whether that benefits the Palestinians or the Israelis depends on whether it gives American political leaders less reason to lead diplomatic efforts to help solve the conflict or causes the U.S. to retreat somewhat from the region, including military support for Israel.

View complete question responses and trends.

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