Israel vs. Palestinians: Mind the Gap

Gallup just published another set of numbers showing that “Americans’ stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is as strongly pro-Israel as at any time in Gallup’s three-decade trend. Sixty-four percent say their sympathies in the dispute lie more with the Israelis, tying the high previously recorded in 2013 and 1991”.

Of course, Gallup is not the only institute to track this trend. Pollsters, for decades, are tracking Israel’s stance vs. (first) the “Arabs” and (later) the “Palestinians”. The numbers vary by year, by pollster, by the exact question, by recent events. But one feature is constant: Israel is always more popular in the US than the Arabs (or Palestinians).

Moreover, looking at the gap between Israel and the other side, we see a trend of a slowly widening gap. Take a look at the graph bellow, that includes all the data we found beginning in 1967. The blue dots are Israel, the black dots are “Arabs” or, in the last three decades, “Palestinians”, the red dots show the gap between the two, and the red line is the trend line for the gap.

So, no reason to worry?

Think again, and look again – here’s what happens when we only track the last 10 years. In this decade the questions are always about Palestinians, and not Arabs, and the trend line is one of a narrowing gap. Israel’s numbers are as high as ever before (in Gallup’s tracking they are higher than ever before). The Palestinians are doing slightly better than they did in the past.

So, reason to worry?

I am not sure there is one. Israel vs. Palestine is not necessarily a zero-sum game. In other words: This is a common survey question, but I am not certain it is a very good survey question. A person can be “more” supportive of Israel and still “supportive” of the Palestinians, and vice-versa. Maybe the “favourability” question is the more revealing. In this question we see that “Israel and the Palestinian Authority have nearly reverse images in the U.S., further underscoring Americans’ partiality for Israel in the Mideast conflict. Currently, 74% of U.S. adults view Israel favourably and 23% view it unfavourably, whereas 21% view the Palestinian Authority favourably and 71% unfavourably”.

Moreover: amid the talk about Israel’s difficulties with Democratic voters it is worth noting that “83% of Republicans, 72% of independents and 64% of Democrats view Israel favourably”. So, even among Democratic voters there is still a solid majority viewing Israel favourably. And while younger Americans are less supportive of Israel than older Americans, as Gallup revealed in February, this is more the result of growing support among older Americans than of declining support among young Americans. “Older Americans have grown especially sympathetic toward Israel, and this shift has happened across the board politically – not solely because of shifts among older Republicans. Meanwhile, independents and Republicans aged 18 to 49 are also leaning more pro-Israel, leaving younger Democrats as the only group whose views have not changed”.

Repeat: “younger Democrats [is] …the only group whose views have not changed”. According to Gallup, neither for better – nor for worse.