Americans' Views of Netanyahu Less Positive Post-Visit

Americans' Views of Netanyahu Less Positive Post-Visit

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Story Highlights

  • U.S. favorable ratings of Netanyahu down from 45% to 38%
  • No change in Americans' ratings of Obama or Boehner
  • Congressional job approval at 18%

PRINCETON, N.J. -- After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's much-publicized and controversial address to Congress, Americans' opinions of him have worsened. His favorable rating is down seven percentage points, to 38%, while his unfavorable rating has increased five points, to 29%. These changes are largely confined to Democrats; Republicans' views are essentially stable.

Opinions of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Before and After His March 3 Address to Congress

The current rating, based on a March 5-8 poll, came just days after Netanyahu's March 3 address to Congress. Netanyahu's 45% pre-visit rating ranked among the highest Gallup has measured for him.

The address was controversial because House Speaker John Boehner did not inform President Barack Obama about his plans to invite Netanyahu to speak before Congress. Critics of the invitation thought Obama should at least have been notified given the president's predominant role in conducting U.S. foreign policy. Also, Netanyahu planned to use his speech to express his opposition to agreements designed to limit Iran's nuclear capabilities at a time when the U.S., Iran and other nations are actively negotiating such an agreement. Obama did not personally meet with Netanyahu during his U.S. visit.

The March 3 visit appears to have soured Americans' -- specifically Democrats' -- views of Netanyahu, though he remains more positively (38%) than negatively (29%) rated overall. Thirty-three percent of Americans do not have an opinion of Netanyahu, essentially unchanged from before the visit.

Since February, Democrats have shifted from a 32% favorable/32% unfavorable opinion of Netanyahu to 17% favorable/46% unfavorable. The majority of Republicans, 62%, view the Israeli prime minister favorably.

Obama, Boehner Images Stable

Boehner and Obama, along with Netanyahu, are the chief figures in the controversy. And while Americans' views of Netanyahu have been affected, their opinions of Obama and Boehner have not.

Americans divide evenly in their opinions of Obama -- 49% favorable and 48% unfavorable -- similar to the 51% favorable/48% unfavorable reading from February. The president's February and March favorable ratings are improved from his personal low of 42% last November after the midterm elections. However, they are less positive than his ratings from most of the rest of his presidency.

Personal Favorable Ratings of President Obama

Currently, 27% of Americans have a favorable opinion of Boehner, 49% have an unfavorable one and 24% do not have an opinion of him either way. The last time Gallup measured Americans' opinions of Boehner, in September, he had a 28% favorable rating and 50% unfavorable rating.

Aside from a very brief "honeymoon period" after Boehner took office, Americans have rated him more negatively than positively during his time as speaker.

Personal Favorable Ratings of House Speaker John Boehner

Boehner's image among rank-and-file Republicans has not improved since he so prominently aligned himself with Netanyahu. Republicans and Republican leaners continue to have a more negative (43%) than positive (37%) view of Boehner. In September, 47% of Republicans viewed Boehner unfavorably and 36% favorably.

Views of Congress more generally are also largely unchanged -- its 18% job approval rating in the current poll is essentially the same as the 20% from last month.


The U.S. and Israel are longtime allies, and this is reflected in Americans' generally positive views of Israel. Those positive feelings have extended to Netanyahu, who typically has been rated more favorably than unfavorably by Americans during his time as prime minister.

However, his recent visit caused him to lose some of that goodwill among the American public, chiefly among Democrats. Democrats are likely taking their cues about the appropriateness of Netanyahu's address and his message on Iran from President Obama, who disagreed both with Netanyahu's addressing Congress and his arguments against a nuclear agreement with Iran.

Israeli voters head to the polls next week to elect a new government and will determine whether Netanyahu and his Likud party will remain in power. Depending on the results of those elections, Netanyahu's recent visit may be one more event that contributes to increasing U.S.-Israeli tensions under the Obama and Netanyahu administrations, or may be relegated to a small footnote in the history of U.S.-Israel relations if a new government is elected.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted March 5-8, 2015, with a random sample of 1,025 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. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

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.

View complete question responses and trends.

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