Sympathy for Israel remains high; plurality support two-state answer
PRINCETON, NJ -- Despite intensive efforts by the Obama administration to help the Israelis and Palestinians agree on a framework for peace negotiations by late April, and Secretary of State John Kerry's frequent trips to the region, Americans are as doubtful as ever that Israel and its Arab neighbors will ever settle their differences and live in peace. Exactly one-third now believe this will happen, down from 38% in 2012, while 64% believe peace will never be reached. Current optimism is on the low end of what Gallup has found in the last two decades.
The poll was conducted Feb. 6-9, prior to a recent report that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas walked out of talks in Paris last week over the United States' proposal for the division of Jerusalem and other issues. Kerry has since indicated that the deadline for reaching an agreement on the framework for peace may have to be extended, possibly indefinitely, although President Barack Obama is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House Monday to try to keep the momentum going.
The United States has long supported a "two-state solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, based on mutually agreed-upon terms establishing Palestine as an independent state. In 2011, Obama spoke in favor of using the region's pre-1967 borders -- before Israel gained control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the Six-Day War -- as the starting point.
By 46% to 36%, more Americans agree than disagree with the goal of having an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with 18% expressing no opinion. However, support has waned since 2003, when 58% backed it. Since then, support has held steady among Democrats (55% in 2003 vs. 56% today), while it has fallen from 60% to 41% among Republicans, and from 59% to 43% among independents.
Although Americans tend to favor a Palestinian state encompassing the West Bank and Gaza Strip, most say their sympathies lie with the Israelis. In fact, Americans have favored Israel over the Palestinians consistently since 1988, and since 2000 an outright majority have typically favored Israel. At no time has sympathy for the Palestinians exceeded 20%.
Currently, 62% sympathize more with the Israelis and 18% more with the Palestinians, while 21% are neutral or unsure.
The partisan gap in views toward Israel has been quite pronounced since 2002, early in George W. Bush's presidency. Republicans' sympathy for Israel expanded that year, perhaps reflecting the strengthening of U.S.-Israeli relations after 9/11. It expanded further in early 2003, when Israel backed Bush's initiative to invade Iraq at a time when France and other nations were resisting, then shrank during a brief period of public optimism about peace that spring when agreement on a "road map" for resolving the conflict seemed near.
Republicans' sympathy for Israel has since swelled, reaching 80% or higher in recent years, while Democrats' sympathy has risen less sharply. Independents' views have been closer to Democrats' views since 2002.
Support for Israel Differs Along Generational Lines
While majorities of all age groups say their sympathies lie more with the Israelis, and few side with the Palestinians, barely half of young adults, those aged 18 to 34, currently favor Israel on this question, compared with 58% of 35- to 54-year-olds and 74% of those 55 and older.
Additionally, Gallup trends document that older Americans have grown increasingly likely to side with Israel in the conflict, while support from younger adults and those in between has been flat or risen more modestly.
Americans have seemingly become hardened pessimists about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the majority consistently skeptical that peace in the region will ever be attained. Although their pessimism has diminished at times, there is no hint of that today even as the Obama administration is deeply involved in brokering peace talks after a three-year hiatus.
Israel continues to enjoy greater support in the U.S. than do the Palestinians. Relatedly, Gallup finds Israel enjoying a high favorable rating among Americans, while the Palestinian authority and several Arab countries are viewed more negatively. Still, far more Americans support the creation of a Palestinian state, or at least have no opinion about it, than reject it, indicating that U.S. leaders pursuing a two-state solution are on the right track.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 6-9, 2014, with a random sample of 1,023 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.