Palestinian-Israeli Dispute Engenders American Sympathy for Israelis

by Lydia Saad

Public's views have become more polarized over last 10 years

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- For the nearly 20 years Gallup has been tracking Americans' sympathies in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, more Americans have continually sided with Israelis. That remains the case today, as a solid majority of Americans (58%) say their sympathies lie with the Israelis and only 20% say their sympathies are more with the Palestinians. This is according to Gallup's annual World Affairs survey, updated Feb. 1-4, 2007.

Last year's World Affairs survey, conducted Feb. 6-9, 2006, followed a turbulent month in the region due to the disabling of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by a massive stroke on January 4, and the January 25 Palestinian elections, which resulted in members of the Hamas organization -- considered a terrorist organization by the United States -- capturing a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament.

Possibly as a result of these events, public preferences for Israelis in February 2006 were at their highest since the 1991 Gulf War. Gallup saw a slight increase last year in Americans' level of sympathy with Israelis compared to the previous two years (59% in 2006 compared with an average of 54% in 2004-2005). There was also a slight dip in sympathies toward the Palestinians (15% in 2006 compared with 18% in 2004-2005).

This year's poll finds sympathies toward Israelis holding at last year's level, and sympathies toward Palestinians rebounding. The 20% favoring the Palestinians today is technically the highest level of sympathy for their side in the conflict recorded by Gallup since 1989, though it is not significantly greater than the 18% recorded in 2004 and 2005.

The same general pattern is seen in a separate set of questions asking Americans to give their opinions of various countries, as either very favorable, mostly favorable, mostly unfavorable, or very unfavorable. The total percentage of Americans viewing Israel favorably fell slightly between last year and today -- from 68% to 63% -- while favorable views of Palestine increased slightly, from 11% to 16%. However, between the two countries, Israel enjoys the much more positive image in the United States.

 

 

Total Favorable

Total Unfavorable

Israel

%

%

Feb 2006

68

23

Feb 2007

63

30

     

Palestinian Authority

   

Feb 2006

11

78

Feb 2007

16

75

For a fuller discussion of these favorable trends, see "Republicans' and Democrats' Ratings of Nations" in "Related Items."

Long-Term View

Americans are more pro-Israeli in their views today than they were 10 and 20 years ago, but, they are also more polarized, more generally. Over time, the percentage of Americans not having any partiality in the dispute -- either favoring both sides, favoring neither side, or having no opinion -- has decreased. At the same time, sympathies toward Israelis have increased fairly substantially and sympathies toward the Palestinians have increased slightly.

Today, a combined 78% of Americans favor either the Israelis or Palestinians, while the remaining 22% express no partiality. This includes 5% of Americans who say they feel sympathetic to both sides, 10% who are sympathetic to neither, and 7% who have no opinion on the matter.

The current 22% is down from 30% two years ago, and is only about half the level seen 14 years ago, when 43% of Americans had no preference in the dispute.

The figures have varied slightly from year to year, but averaging all polls conducted from 1993-1999 and comparing these with all polls conducted since 2000, Gallup trends show that the average level of sympathy for Israelis rose from 41% to 53%, while the average sympathy for the Palestinians rose from 13% to 16%. (Gallup's polls from 1988-1993 had a slightly different method of recording no opinion responses, which makes them not directly comparable to polls conducted since 1993.)

Clearly, as Americans have moved out of the "no preference" columns, they have moved disproportionately into the pro-Israeli column.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,007 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 1-4, 2007. 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. 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.

27. In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?

 

 

Israelis

Palestinians

BOTH (vol.)

NEITHER (vol.)

No opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

2007 Feb 1-4

58

20

5

10

7

           

2006 Feb 6-9

59

15

5

13

8

2005 Feb 7-10

52

18

7

12

11

2004 Feb 9-12

55

18

7

12

8

2003 May 19-21

46

16

12

14

12

2003 Feb 3-6

58

13

6

11

12

2002 Sep 2-4

47

14

6

19

14

2002 Jun 21-23

49

14

8

19

10

2002 May 20-22

49

15

7

19

10

2002 Apr 22-24

47

13

9

18

13

2002 Apr 5-7

50

15

9

17

9

2002 Mar 8-9

43

14

6

20

17

2002 Feb 4-6

55

14

6

14

11

2001 Dec 14-16

51

14

5

17

13

2001 Sep 14-15

55

7

4

20

14

2001 Aug 10-12

41

13

7

18

21

2001 Feb 1-4

51

16

7

14

12

2000 Oct 13-14

41

11

9

18

21

2000 Jul 6-9

41

14

5

18

22

2000 Jan 25-26

43

13

5

21

18

1999 Jul 22-25

43

12

11

19

15

1998 Dec 4-6

46

13

5

22

14

1997 Aug 12-13

38

8

5

19

30

1996 Nov 21-24

38

15

6

14

27

1993 Sep 10-12

42

15

6

17

20

1991 Feb

64

7

19

--

10

1989 Aug

50

14

15

--

21

1988 May 13-15

37

15

22

--

27

(vol.) = Volunteered response

May 1988-April 2002 and February 3-6, 2003 WORDING: In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinian Arabs?

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