Support for Israel is not restricted to the Jewish community. Americans of all ages, races, and religions sympathize with Israel. This support is also nonpartisan.
The best indication of Americans’ attitude toward Israel is found in the response to the most consistently asked question about the Middle East: “In the Middle East situation, are your sympathies more with Israel or the Palestinians?” (asked about the Arab nations until 1993). The organization that has conducted the most surveys is Gallup. In the most recent poll, reported by Gallup in February 2023, 54% sympathized with Israel, just below the level of support (56%) Israel enjoyed after the 1967 War when many people mistakenly believe that Israel was overwhelmingly popular. Support for the Palestinians was 31%, the highest response ever.
In recent years Gallup has noted that many Americans have moved from “no preference” into the pro-Israeli column. Even when support for Israel dips, as occurred during Operation Protective Edge (July 8-August 26, 2014), when the NBC/WSJ and Pew polls found a decline in support to 46% and 51%, respectively, support for the Palestinians did not increase (it was 14% in both polls). Moreover, support for Israel inevitably bounces back.
In 93 Gallup polls going back to 1967, Israel has had the support of an average of 48% of the American people compared to 13% for the Arab states/Palestinians. The results are similar (48%-12%) when all 260 polls (beginning in 1967) asking similar questions are included. Americans have slightly more sympathy for the Palestinians than for the Arab states, but the results of polls asking respondents to choose between Israel and the Palestinians have not differed significantly from the other surveys. On average, in all polls, Israel is favored by almost 4 to 1.
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, 46%; in the 1990s, 50%, including the record high during the Gulf War. Since 2000, support for Israel is averaging 54%. In the 8 Gallup polls conducted during President Barack Obama’s term, support for Israel soared to an average of 62%, with sympathy for the Palestinians increasing to 16%. In the four polls recorded during Donald Trump’s term, support for Israel was 61% and sympathy. This was unsurprising given the pro-Israel policies adopted by Trump. What was more unexpected was the increase in sympathy for the Palestinians, which averaged 21%. Support for Israel has slipped in the three polls since Joe Biden was elected to 56%, while sympathy for the Palestinians has averaged 27%.
These polls are expected to be very sensitive to current events; however, Operation Protective Edge notwithstanding, that has generally not been the case. Gallup reported in early August 2014: “Despite the vividness of news and social media images emanating from the conflict in the Middle East [that were mostly unflattering toward Israel], Americans' attention to the conflict and their attitudes about the actions on both sides have remained remarkably unchanged compared with...results from the period of Israeli-Palestinian violence 12 years ago.”
Support for Israelis and the Palestinians differs dramatically based on party and ideology. There is a general misperception that Democratic support for Israel was historically much higher than Republican sympathy. That was never true, and the shift has really been in the dramatic increase in Republican support for Israel.
The trend has been clear and seemingly inexorable since Democratic support for Israel hit its second-highest level of 58% in 2014 (the peak was at the time of the 1991 Gulf War when support for Israel hit its high for the first time—64%—and Democratic support was 62%) and has steadily fallen to 38% in 2023. During that period, sympathy for the Palestinians increased from 23% to 49%. Meanwhile, Republican support has remained consistent, at 81% in 2014 and 78% in 2023, with support for the Palestinians at 11% in both years. The partisan gap in support for Israel has also reached a high of 42%. In 41 Gallup polls dating to 1993, the average support for Republicans is 69% and 45% for Democrats
There was an equally marked difference among respondents in different age groups in sympathy for Israel versus the Palestinians – 18-29 (43%-45%), 30-49 (44%-34%), 50-64 (60%-25%), and 65+ (68%-23). This is less surprising as older Americans have historically been more sympathetic to Israel. Some are alarmed when they see the disparity; however, if past trends persist, the youngest people today will likely become more sympathetic over time. Still, even the oldest cohorts showed a significant improvement in their attitudes toward the Palestinians.
Americans who are more religious in terms of attending services are much more likely to be pro-Israel. Frank Newport, a senior scientist at Gallup, analyzed the impact of religiosity on attitudes toward Israel. He analyzed data from 2001-2014 and 2015-2019 and found that “66% and 71% of those who attended religious services weekly or almost weekly said their sympathies were with Israel rather than the Palestinians, while the figures for those who never attended services were 46% and 49%.
Partisan identity, however, has a more significant impact. “Even the least religious Republicans are significantly more positive about Israel than the most religious Democrats,” according to Newport. More dramatically, 85% of highly religious Republicans sympathize with Israel compared to 55% of highly religious Democrats.
Newport did not look at the religiosity of Jews, but he did find that partisan differences were not relevant. Despite the fact that “Jewish Americans are more than three times as likely to identify as Democrats as Republicans,” and that “Democrats are much less sympathetic than Republicans are to Israel.” From 2001-2014, 93% of Jews were sympathetic toward Israel and only 2% toward the Palestinians. From 2015-2019, the figures were 86% and 7%. Newport concluded the drop in support for Israel was “not of analytical significance.”
Protestants also have above-average sympathy for Israel, with 70% saying they are sympathetic to Israel and 13% to the Palestinians. By comparison, about 60% of Catholics and 43% of people with no religious identity sympathize with Israel.
Gallup does not measure “evangelicals” separately, but Newport estimates their views by isolating white, highly religious Protestants. This group’s support for Israel, 87%, mirrors that of Jews.
Evangelicals have historically been very pro-Israel; however, a survey of evangelicals done by Kirill Bumin and Motti Inbari indicates the opinions of this population may be shifting, especially among the youth. Overall, in 2021, 50% of evangelicals supported Israel compared to 19% for the Palestinians (31% supported neither). Those under 30, however, favored the Palestinians by 45%-29%, while those over 30 supported Israel by 56%-12%.
Changing demographics might affect U.S. policy towards Israel. Blacks have historically been less sympathetic to Israel than whites, and, over the last three years, support for both Israelis and Palestinians has averaged 41% compared to whites favoring Israel by 62% to 24%. For Hispanics, the comparable figures are 48% to 29%. Support for Israel among these minorities has not dropped precipitously, but, as in the case of Democrats, their sympathy for the Palestinians has grown.
Gallup also takes regular polls on world affairs. Overall favorable ratings of Israel in February 2023 were 68%, down from a high of 79% recorded in 1991 after the Gulf War. By contrast, just 26% of Americans had a favorable opinion of the Palestinian Authority, a decline from its high of 30% in 2021. In 2023, Israel ranked eighth in favorability, trailing Canada (88%), Great Britain (86%), France (83%), Japan (81%), Germany (80%), Italy (80%), and India (70%). The PA ranked behind Cuba (42%) and Saudi Arabia (30%) and above only U.S. adversaries like Iran and China (15%) and Russia and North Korea (9%).
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 (29% vs. 3% for the Palestinians' side in the University of Maryland's December 2015 survey). Since 2007, most Americans have favored pressuring the Palestinians to make the necessary compromises for peace. In Gallup’s February 2021 poll, 44% favored more pressure on the Palestinians, while a record high of 34% said the U.S. should put more pressure on the Israelis. More than three-fourths of Americans also believe Palestinian-Israeli peace is somewhat or very important to the United States.
A Chicago Council poll in 2021 found that 49% of Americans supported the creation of a Palestinian state, and 42% opposed Palestinian statehood.
Polls also indicate the public views Israel as a reliable U.S. ally, a feeling that grew stronger during the Gulf crisis. In May 2011, CNN found that 82% of Americans believed Israel is “friendly” or an “ally.” In 2013, ADL reported that 75% of the respondents considered Israel a “close ally” or “Friendly/not close ally.” In 2021, an Economist/YouGov poll found that 67% considered Israel “friendly” or an “ally.” In 2023, Pew reported that Israel was seen as the third most important ally after the UK and Canada.
See also: American Attitudes Toward the Middle East
American Opinion Toward Israel As A Friend And Ally
American Sympathy Toward Israel/Arabs/Palestinians
American Jewish College Student Survey
Palestinian Homeland Polls
Public Attitudes Toward the Peace Process
Public Opinion Toward Foreign Aid
American Jewish Committee Annual Polls
Sources: Gallup; CNN; ADL;
Frank Newport, “Americans’ Views of Israel Remain Tied to Religious Beliefs,” Gallup, (March 19, 2019).