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U.S.-Israel Relations:
American Public Opinion Toward Israel

By Mitchell Bard

(Updated August 2014)

US-Israel Relations: Table of Contents | Opinion Polls | Palestinian Polls

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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, with a majority of Democrats and Republicans consistently favoring Israel by large margins over the Arabs.

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 with the Arab nations?” The organization that has conducted the most surveys is Gallup. Support for Israel in Gallup Polls has remained consistently around the 50% mark since 1967. In the most recent poll, reported by Gallup in February 2014, 62% sympathized with Israel, just below last year's all-time high of 64%. By comparison only 18% expressed support for the Palestinians.

In recent years Gallup has noted that many Americans have moved from “no preference” into the pro-Israeli column. A CNN poll in November 2012, after Israel began Operation Pillar of Defense, found that 59% of Americans supported Israel and 13% sympathized with the Palestinians. Despite the violence of the preceding years, and a steady stream of negative media coverage, this exceeds the level of support (56%) Israel enjoyed after the 1967 war, when many people mistakenly believe that Israel was overwhelmingly popular.

In 85 Gallup polls, going back to 1967, Israel has had the support of an average of 47% of the American people compared to 12% for the Arab states/Palestinians. The results are similar (48%-12%) when all 247 polls 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.

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, 47%, including the record highs during the Gulf War. Since 2000, support for Israel is averaging 51%. In the 42 polls conducted during President Obama's term, support for Israel has soared to an average 54%, continuing an upward trend since the 1980s, while sympathy for the Palestinians has sunk to 11%, continuing a downward spiral that also began in the 1980s. On average, Israel is favored by more than 4 to 1.

These polls are expected to be very sensitive to current events; however, that has not been the case for more than a decade. 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.”

Gallup also takes regular polls on world affairs. Overall favorable ratings of Israel in February 2014 were 72%, 6 percentage points higher than in 2013. Israel ranked behind Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, France and India for both years. By contrast, in 2013, just 15% of Americans had a favorable opinion of the Palestinian Authority, while 77% had an unfavorable view. The PA in 2014 is rated just above Libya (19%), Pakistan (17%), Iraq (16%), Afghanistan (14%), Syria (13%), Iran (12%) and North Korea (11%) as the least popular countries. The same poll also found that only 35% of Americans have a mostly favorable view of Saudi Arabia.

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 (32% vs. 1% for the Palestinian's side in CNN's May 2011 survey). Since 2007, an increasing number of Americans favor pressuring the Palestinians to make the necessary compromises for peace than the Israelis. In Gallup's March 2013 poll, 48% favored more pressure on the Palestinians while only 25% 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.

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.”

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