Recent Middle East Violence Costs Israel Some U.S. Public Support

by Lydia Saad

But many Americans remain sympathetic to the Jewish state

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Recent Arab-Israeli violence appears to have taken a toll on Israel's image in the United States, as the percentage of Americans expressing sympathy for the Jewish state has dropped 12 points over the last month. This erases the increase in support Israel received after Sept. 11. Over the same period, there has been no change in Americans' already minimal level of sympathy for the Palestinians. However, the balance of opinion continues to favor the Israelis, as 43% of Americans currently say they side with Israel; only 14% side with the Palestinians. A large number of Americans favor neither side.

Current U.S. Sympathies in
Palestinian-Israeli Dispute
March 8-9, 2002

These findings are from a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted last weekend, March 8-9. The timing of the poll coincided with some of the most deadly acts of violence by Palestinians and Israelis seen in the region in decades. The heaviest bloodshed has occurred in the days since the poll was conducted, so American attitudes may have changed further in recent days.

Since 1988, Gallup has asked the U.S. public to specify a preference between the two sides in the Palestinian-Israeli dispute with this question: In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinian Arabs? While Americans have consistently sided with Israel, the Gallup trend shows that the level of public support for Israel has fluctuated from a low of 37% to a high of 64%.

Middle East Sympathies Trend

Sympathy for Israel Spiked During Gulf War and After Sept. 11

The highest levels of American sympathy for Israel have occurred in times of hostility between the United States and certain elements of the Arab world -- occasions that, for a variety of reasons, may have highlighted the United States' close relationship with Israel and put the Palestinian Arabs in a bad light.

  • In February 1991, when America was fighting the Gulf War, U.S. public sympathies for Israel were 64%, the highest in Gallup's trend. This sentiment fell back to the 40% level for the next decade.
  • Immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States by Arab terrorists, public sympathies for Israel rose to 55% and remained at that level through last month.

The latest drop in sympathy for Israel -- to 43% -- coincides with the heightened violence by both sides in that region. However, it should be noted that this lower support level is on par with the normal level of American support for Israel seen prior to Sept. 11.

By contrast with the high, but sometimes variable, support for Israel, the percentage of Americans saying they are partial to the Palestinians in the dispute is more stable and always minimal, ranging from 7% to 16%.

Conservatives Give Israel Widest Support; Young Adults Less Supportive

Gallup polling finds more sympathy for Israel than for the Palestinians among all major subgroups of Americans, including among men, women, whites, nonwhites, liberals and conservatives.

Some variation is seen among subgroups, however, in the degree of support for Israel. Self-described liberals side with Israel over the Palestinians by the slimmest of margins -- 33% vs. 25%, with the remainder saying they have no preference. By contrast, conservatives prefer Israel by a solid margin, 51% vs. 12%. Support for Israel is also prevalent among Republicans, those living in the South, and men.

Along with liberals, young adults (those aged 18-29) are among the least supportive of Israel. In the March 8-9 poll, only 34% of this age group said they sympathize with Israel, compared to 22% who side with the Palestinians; the remainder have no preference. This confirms earlier Gallup polling, which found similar patterns of low support for Israel among the young. By comparison, sympathy for the Palestinians in the 18-29 age group ranges from 22%-24%, compared with only 11%-14% among older age groups.

Percentage Who Sympathize With Israel:
by Age

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 802 adults, 18 years and older, conducted March 8-9, 2002. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 4 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.

In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinian Arabs?

 

 


Israelis

Palestinian Arabs


BOTH (vol.)

NEITHER
(vol.)

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

%

%

           

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

           

^

Based on interviews with 821 national adults; +/- 4 pct. pts.

(vol.) Volunteered response



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