Americans Stand Apart in Support for Israel

by Lydia Saad, Senior Gallup Poll Editor

Britons, Canadians more divided in Middle East sympathies

When asked to say where their sympathies lie in the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Americans have historically sided with the Israelis over the Palestinians by a wide margin, and they continue to do so. However, residents of Canada and Great Britain do not share that perspective. Gallup's April 2005 international polling* shows Canadians and Britons are about evenly divided in their Middle East sympathies.

According to Gallup's U.S. World Affairs poll, conducted in February 2005, Americans are much more sympathetic toward the Israelis than the Palestinian Arabs: 52% vs. 18%. Canadians sympathize with the Israelis over the Palestinians by only a four-point margin, 34% vs. 30%. Those in Great Britain side with the Palestinians by a seven-point margin, 31% vs. 24%.

The remainder of respondents in each country do not have a preference, either saying they sympathize with both sides, with neither side, or have no opinion. These neutral views account for 30% of respondents in the United States, 36% in Canada, and 45% in Great Britain.

Opinion of Israel Varies, but Palestinian Authority Gets a Consistent Thumbs Down

In line with the differences in sympathies, Canadians and Britons are, to varying degrees, less likely than Americans to view Israel favorably. Whereas two-thirds of Americans (69%) have a favorable opinion of Israel, this figure is 51% in Canada and only 39% in Great Britain.

At the same time, Canadians and Britons are no more likely than Americans to hold a favorable view of the Palestinian Authority. Only 29% of those in Canada and 31% of those in Britain view the Palestinian Authority favorably -- similar to the 27% who do so in the United States. A majority in each country has an unfavorable view of the Palestinian government.

Similar Demographic Patterns

Apart from the differences among the three countries, there are some important similarities in the way Middle East sympathies and attitudes toward Israel play out among demographic groups within each country.

Given that the modern-day Israeli-Palestinian conflict has its roots in the formation of Israel in 1948, one might expect to see generational differences in attitudes about the two sides. But this generally isn't the case. In all three countries, sympathies for Israelis versus the Palestinians among different age groups are fairly small; the numbers certainly do not suggest any generational pattern in attitudes.

Women in each country are a bit more likely than men to take a neutral position toward the Middle East conflict. But the attitudes of women who do express an opinion tend to be similar to men's, particularly in the United States and Great Britain. In Canada, roughly equal numbers of men and women (34% and 35%) sympathize with Israel, while slightly fewer women than men (26% vs. 35%) sympathize with the Palestinians.

Education is one variable that does make a difference. In each country, adults with advanced education are relatively more sympathetic to the Palestinians than are adults with less formal education. This gap is particularly pronounced in Great Britain and Canada.

  • In Great Britain, 44% of those who completed their education at age 19 or later say they sympathize with the Palestinians, compared with only 24% of those who completed their education at a younger age.

  • In Canada, 46% of those with postgraduate education sympathize with the Palestinians, compared with only 30% of those with an undergraduate degree, 27% of those with some college education, and 27% of those with no college education.

  • In the United States there is more sympathy for Israel than the Palestinians among all education groups, but the net preference for Israel (percentage favoring Israel minus percentage favoring the Palestinians) is a bit smaller among those with postgraduate education (+28) than it is among those with less formal education (+35).

Bottom Line

The United States and Great Britain may have a special relationship. Canada and the United States are closely bound by geography and trade. But these connections do not guarantee a common worldview, as perceptions of Israel clearly illustrate.

Americans are widely sympathetic to Israel's position in the Middle East conflict, and have a favorable view of that country. The British are closely divided in their sympathies; also, a majority of Britons have an unfavorable opinion of Israel. The Canadians fall somewhere in between, with roughly even numbers favoring each side in the conflict, but a slim majority viewing Israel favorably.

*Results in the United States are based on telephone interviews with 1,007 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 7-10, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup USA.

Results in Canada are based on telephone interviews with 1,006 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 11-17, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup Canada.

Results in Great Britain are based on telephone interviews with 1,012 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 5-18, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. The survey was conducted by Gallup UK.

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