#35: U.S. Public Opinion
(May 3, 2004)
Many people have a general perception that Americans once loved Israel, particularly in the wake of the dramatic victory in the Six-Day War, but that public support has gradually eroded over time because of Arab propaganda and an anti-Israeli media bias. The data tells a different story.
American public support for Israel has consistently exceeded that of the Arabs and Palestinians by huge margins, and the overall trend over the years has been in Israel’s favor. Large majorities of Americans also view Israel as a friend and reliable ally.
In June 1967, 56% of Americans supported Israel, compared to only 4% who said they sympathized with the Arabs. Despite all that has transpired in the last 37 years, the latest Gallup poll, taken in February 2004, found that 55% of Americans still sympathize with Israel. Support for the Palestinians (Gallup permanently changed the question wording from “Arabs” in 1993) reached a record high in this poll, but is still only 18%.
Overall, support for Israel has been on the upswing since 1967. In the 1970s, the average level of support for Israel was 42%, in the 1980s, it was 46%, and, in the 1990s, 50%, including a record high of 64 percent at the time of the Gulf War in January 1991. So far, in the new millennium, support for Israel is averaging 48%.
Meanwhile, even with the latest record high, support for the Arabs/Palestinians has actually declined in the last two decades from an anemic average just below 15% in the 1980s to less than 14% since 2000. On average, Israel is favored by nearly four to one.
The percentage of Americans with a favorable opinion of Israel has averaged 62% over the past eight years, compared with only 17% for the Palestinian Authority (over five years). Three-quarters of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of the PA, which ranks second from the bottom (only slightly more positively than North Korea) of a list of 22 countries measured by Gallup.
Since 1998, roughly three-fourths of respondents have said the United States should take neither side in the conflict, but those who do pick a side overwhelmingly choose Israel (27% vs. 1% for the Palestinian’s side in 2001). More than three-fourths of Americans also believe Palestinian-Israeli peace is somewhat or very important to the United States.
Polls also indicate the public views Israel as a reliable U.S. ally, a feeling that grew stronger during the first Gulf crisis. A January 1991 Harris Poll, for example, found that 86 percent of Americans considered Israel a “close ally” or “friendly.” In a 2002 ADL poll, the figure was 64%, and a May 2003 survey sponsored by the Alliance for Research on National Security Issues, reported that 63% of Americans believed Israel is “a reliable ally of the U.S. in the fight against terrorism.”
When Fox News asked in February 2003 which nations are friends of the United States, 70% answered Israel, which placed the Jewish State second only to Great Britain, and far ahead of France and Germany.
On U.S. support for Israel, 60% of Americans in the May 2003 Gallup poll said the United States supports Israel about the right amount or too little.
See also: American Attitudes Toward Israel