- Israel maintains a much better U.S. image than the Palestinian Authority
- Democrats' sympathies now divided, while GOP remains strongly pro-Israel
- Liberal Democrats' views now tilt pro-Palestinian
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The broad contours of the American public's views on Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been fairly constant this century, but aspects have changed, at least among certain age, party and ideological subgroups.
The following 10 graphs summarize Gallup's key Israeli-Palestinian trends over the past two decades. The latest results are based on a Feb. 3-18 poll that was conducted before violence erupted in the region in early May. Thus, they provide a backdrop to attitudes ahead of that conflict, rather than reflecting post-conflict attitudes. Additional Gallup analysis of these data is available in Gallup's March 19 news article.
Positive Views of Israel Largely Unchanged
Americans' overall impression of Israel has been largely positive, with no less than 58% viewing that nation favorably since 2001.
Line graph. Yearly trend from 2001 to 2021 in the percentage of Americans with a very or mostly favorable view of Israel. Favorability has been high throughout the trend, ranging from 58% to 75%, with the highest figure recorded in 2021.
Israel's image has remained positive among both party groups over the past two decades, although more positive among Republicans (including independents who lean Republican) than among Democrats (including Democratic leaners). Most recently, 85% of Republicans and 66% of Democrats viewed Israel favorably.
Americans have also remained more partial to the Israelis' side than to the Palestinians' when asked where their sympathies lie in the Mideast conflict. At no time over the past two decades has Americans' sympathy for Israel fallen below the majority level when asked on Gallup's annual World Affairs survey. With 58% of U.S. adults sympathizing with the Israelis and 25% with the Palestinians earlier this year, the 2021 net sympathy reading in favor of Israel is +33.
Line graph. Americans' sympathies with two sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 58% of Americans in 2021 sympathize with the Israelis, while 25% sympathize with the Palestinians and 17% sympathize with neither or both sides, or are unsure. The majority have consistently sided with the Israelis since 2001.
Positive Views of Palestinians Still Low, but Rising
At the same time that positive feelings and sympathy toward Israel remain high, the percentages of Americans viewing the Palestinian Authority favorably and saying they sympathize more with the Palestinians than the Israelis in the conflict inched up to all-time highs this year.
Thirty percent now view the Palestinian Authority favorably, 12 percentage points higher than the average from 2001 to 2020. One-quarter now sympathize more with the Palestinians than the Israelis in the conflict, in contrast with an average 17% in the prior 20 years.
Line graph. Annual trends from 2001 to 2021 in the percentage of Americans with a favorable view of the Palestinian Authority and the percentage sympathizing more with the Palestinians than the Israelis in the Middle East conflict. Favorability was 22% in 2001 and has reached its highest level of 30% in 2021. Sympathy for the Palestinians was 16% in 2001 and is 25% in 2021, also the highest in the trend.
Democrats Mostly Driving Change
From a partisan standpoint, Democrats were the prime drivers of Palestinians' improved ratings between 2013 and 2020, although Republicans' view of the Palestinian Authority also improved this year.
Line graph. Annual trend from 2002 to 2021 in favorable views of the Palestinian Authority among Republicans and Democrats. Favorability among Republicans was 14% in 2002 and is 21% in 2021. Favorability among Democrats was 14% in 2002 and is 38% in 2021.
The trend in Democrats' sympathies in the conflict is also striking. From 2002 through 2014, Democrats were significantly more likely to side with the Israelis than the Palestinians. Since 2014, that preference has gradually faded, and now Democrats are about equally as likely to sympathize with the Palestinians as with the Israelis.
Line graph. Annual trend from 2002 to 2021 in Democrats' sympathies in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. After consistently sympathizing more with the Israelis from 2002 to 2019, Democrats' sympathies have been nearly evenly divided in 2020 and 2021. In 2021, 42% of Democrats sympathize more with the Israelis and 39% sympathize more with the Palestinians.
There has been no corresponding change in Republicans' sympathies, with the vast majority in 2021 (79%) sympathizing more with Israel and relatively few (11%) with the Palestinians, consistent with Republicans' views over the past two decades.
The contrast between Republicans and Democrats on this question is best illustrated by the trend in net sympathies for Israel (the percentage sympathetic toward Israel minus the percentage sympathetic toward the Palestinians). Net sympathy for Israel has remained high among Republicans (+68 this year), while staying near last year's all-time low of -3 among Democrats.
Line graph. Annual trend from 2002 to 2021 in net sympathy for Israel, by party ID. Net sympathy is the percentage more sympathetic toward Israel minus the percentage more sympathetic toward the Palestinians. The net sympathy scores in 2002 were +53 among Republicans and +31 among Democrats. In 2021, the net sympathy scores are +68 among Republicans and +3 among Democrats.
Delving further into partisan reactions to the conflict, conservative Republicans have consistently expressed the highest net sympathy for Israel, followed by moderate/liberal Republicans, moderate/conservative Democrats and, least of all, liberal Democrats.
Thirty-three percent of liberal Democrats sympathized more with the Israelis in the February 2021 poll, while 48% sympathized more with the Palestinians, yielding a net sympathy score of -15 for Israel.
Liberal Democrats' sympathies have been more with the Palestinians in each of the past two years. Before that, they were evenly divided or tilted toward Israel.
Moderate/Conservative Democrats' views are nearly a mirror image of liberal Democrats': 48% sympathize more with the Israelis and 32% with the Palestinians in 2021, yielding +16 net sympathy for Israel.
Long term, net sympathy for Israel has declined among both groups of Democrats, while it has increased among conservative as well as moderate/liberal Republicans.
Line graph. Annual trend from 2001 to 2021 in net sympathy for the Israelis, by ideology within party groups. Net sympathy is the percentage more sympathetic toward Israel minus the percentage more sympathetic toward the Palestinians. In 2001, the net sympathy scores were +54 (in favor of the Israelis) among conservative Republicans, +30 among moderate/liberal Republicans, +42 among moderate/conservative Democrats and +15 among liberal Democrats. In 2021, the net sympathy scores are +72 among conservative Republicans, +59 among moderate/liberal Republicans, +16 among moderate/conservative Democrats and -15 among liberal Democrats.
Israel's Advantage Slipping Among Younger Adults
Americans of all ages still sympathize more with Israel than with the Palestinians in the Mideast conflict. However, since 2011, an age gap has emerged, with net sympathy for Israel declining more sharply among younger than older adults.
As of February 2021, net sympathy for Israel was +13 points among adults aged 18 to 34, +34 among those 35 to 54 and +45 among those 55 and older.
Line graph. Annual trend from 2002 to 2021 in net sympathy for Israel, by age. Net sympathy is the percentage more sympathetic toward Israel minus the percentage more sympathetic toward the Palestinians. In 2001, the net sympathy scores were +36 among U.S. adults aged 55 and older, +34 among adults aged 35 to 54 and +34 among adults 18 to 34. In 2021, the net sympathy scores are +45 among adults 55 and older, +34 among adults 35 to 54 and +13 among adults 18 to 34.
Democrats' Diplomatic Advice Changing
Democrats' views have also changed on the question of which side the United States should pressure more to make the necessary compromises to resolve the dispute. After being about evenly split from 2007 to 2013 between naming Israel and the Palestinians, Democrats are now more likely to say the U.S. should put greater pressure on Israel.
Line graph. Trend from 2007 to 2021 in Democrats' views on whether the United States should put more pressure on the Israelis or the Palestinians to resolve their conflict. Democratic support for putting more pressure on the Israelis has increased from 38% in 2007 to 50% in 2021. Support for putting more pressure on the Palestinians was 33% in 2007 and is 30% today.
Republicans' views about which side the U.S. should pressure more haven't changed substantively, with majorities (now 63%) consistently naming the Palestinians.
Overall, 34% of Americans say the U.S. should put more pressure on Israel, while 44% say it should pressure the Palestinians more.
Support for Independent Palestinian State at Recent High Point
Americans' support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been higher in each of the past three years than it had been for several years previously.
Line graph. Annual trend from 2000 to 2021 in Americans' support for an independent Palestinian state. Support was 53% in 2000, rising to 58% in 2003 and then falling below 50% from 2013 to 2018 before rising to 50% in 2019 and 52% in 2021.
Democrats are more supportive than Republicans of Palestinian statehood -- 65% vs. 38%, respectively, in 2021 -- but support has generally been higher among both groups in recent years than it was from 2013 to 2017, when support nationally was at a low ebb.
Gallup's 2021 World Affairs poll, conducted in February, captured U.S. public opinion about Israel and the Palestinian Authority just before the latest round of violence shook the region and prompted a variety of strong reactions on the part of U.S. leaders.
At the time of the poll, Israel was viewed highly positively and the Palestinian Authority received its new record-high favorable score, although still low in absolute terms. But the poll also confirmed that sympathy continues to rise for the Palestinians among Democrats and younger adults.
Democrats' views are now at a tipping point, with their sympathy for the Palestinians roughly matching their sympathy for Israel, while liberal Democrats have fully crossed the threshold and now sympathize more with the Palestinians. It should be noted that most Democrats, including a majority of liberal Democrats, still view Israel favorably in general, even if they don't sympathize with its residents more than the Palestinians.
It is not clear how Israeli and Palestinian actions over the past month may have affected Americans' views on the conflict or its players.
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