PRINCETON, N.J. -- Even as relations between the leaders of Israel and the United States reportedly deteriorate over disagreement about how to handle Iran's nuclear program, Israel has retained its broadly favorable image in the U.S. over the past year. Seventy percent of Americans now view that country favorably, and 62% say they sympathize more with the Israelis than the Palestinians in the Mideast conflict. By contrast, 17% currently view the Palestinian Authority favorably, and 16% sympathize more with the Palestinians.
These attitudes, from Gallup's Feb. 8-11 World Affairs survey, are unchanged from a year ago, suggesting that neither the evident friction between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, nor the 50-day conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip last year, greatly affected how each is perceived in the U.S.
In fact, Israel's public image in the U.S. has been fairly strong since 2005, with an average 68% of Americans viewing it favorably. But from 2000 to 2004, when hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians were running high, its favorable score averaged 60%. Prior to that, Israel's favorable rating was even more volatile, reflecting other Mideast events, including the 1991 Gulf War, when positive views of Israel soared after that country suffered Iraqi rocket attacks.
Gallup first measured Americans' impression of the Palestinian Authority, the official governing body of the Palestinians, in 2000, and since then, the percentage viewing it favorably has averaged 17%, diverging significantly on only a few occasions. One of these came in 2005, when favorable opinion of the Palestinians increased in polling conducted shortly after Mahmoud Abbas was elected to succeed Yasser Arafat as Palestinian president.
Asked to Choose Sides, Six in 10 Americans Favor Israelis
Americans' tendency to sympathize more with the Israelis than the Palestinians in their regional conflict also peaked in 1991 during the Gulf War, then fell in 1993 as President Bill Clinton led intense Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and more Americans favored both sides or neither side. Americans remained largely neutral through 2001, spanning several more peace initiatives, when the 9/11 attacks -- as well as years of failed peace talks that yielded to heightened Palestinian-Israeli violence -- may have fundamentally changed their outlook toward the Middle East. Since 2004, Israel has consistently received the majority share of Americans' sympathies.
Republicans Nearly Unanimous in Support of Israel
A key reason Americans' sympathy for Israel has solidified at a sizable majority level is that Republicans' support for the Jewish state has increased considerably, rising from 53% in 2000 to more than 80% since 2014 -- with just 7% choosing the Palestinian Authority. A particularly large jump in GOP sympathy for Israel occurred in the first few years after 9/11 and at the start of the 2003 Iraq War.
Democrats' support for Israel has also risen since 2000, but not quite as sharply as Republicans'. Additionally, the percentage of Democrats sympathizing with Israel fell 10 points this year to 48%, possibly reflecting the tension between Obama and Netanyahu.
U.S.-Israel relations have been much in the news over the past year, and tension between Obama and Netanyahu has reportedly worsened since the latter accepted House Speaker John Boehner's invitation to address Congress about Iran this spring -- an offer the White House did not sanction. Meanwhile, Israel and the United States share a strong interest in seeing the international terrorist organization known as the Islamic State group, or ISIS, thwarted. Throughout all of this, Israel's positive image in the U.S. remains broadly intact nationally, even as Democrats' sympathy for Israel may have slipped. The percentage of Democrats viewing Israel favorably is also down, currently at 60%, vs. 74% a year ago. Positive views of the Palestinian Authority are fairly scarce, but no lower than they have been in recent years.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 8-11, 2015, with a random sample of 837 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.
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.
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