New Numbers Show How Republican Presidents Improve the Image of Palestinians

The more Israel and the Palestinians are seen as part of the general partisan agenda parties, the more the voters tend to pick sides based on their party affiliation.
April 30, 2020

A new Gallup survey examined the image of Israel in America. The following comments address some of the issues this poll clarifies (or muddies).

A Palestinian State

The number of Americans that support the establishment of a Palestinian state is similar to the number of Israelis who support the idea. According to a Gallup survey from earlier this week,  55% of Americans support the establishment of a Palestinian state. According to an IDI survey of Israelis from February, 48% support a Palestinian state.

These numbers are based on the full implementation of President Donald Trump’s peace plan. Before the plan was made public, 45% of Israelis agreed Israel should accept a plan that includes the recognition of a Palestinian state. The Peace Index of Tel Aviv University had similar results (March 2020). While a majority of Americans support the idea, the majority of Israelis do not.

Interestingly, in both America and Israel the Trump plan somewhat raised the share of Palestinian State supporters. In the US, this is because some Republicans are willing to consider such an outcome under the conditions of the Trump plan. In Israel, it’s because some right-wingers have the same feeling. If the State is established as part of full implementation of the Trump plan, it will meet less resistance than previous peace plans among Israelis and Americans. Of course, the problem is that this same plan will meet more resistance among Palestinians. That’s why we’re back at square one: no plan that is acceptable to one side is going to be acceptable to the other.

Israel’s Favorability

Israel still enjoys high levels of “favorability” among Americans in general. Almost half of Republicans (47%) have a “very favorable” view of Israel. Among Democratic voters the equivalent number is 15% — less than a third (among liberals it’s 12%).

In other words, and this is as true this year as it was in the last couple of years, Israel remains a country with high favorability ratings by becoming less favorable in the eyes of one political camp and more so in the eyes of the other political camp. A tradeoff of sorts.

For many years, the mantra for Israelis and Americans was “bipartisan support.” Clearly, the support is no longer bipartisan. So, the question is, can Israel and its supporters do something that will improve the country’s favorability among Democratic voters without losing its newly acquired Republican supporters?

The answers you get from Democrats and Republicans (or, for that matter, right wing and left wing Israelis) are also partisan. In other words, it’s not just the support for Israel that is partisan; the prescriptions for improving Israel’s image are also partisan.

Israel vs. Palestine

A lot was said and written about the problematic nature of the following standard question: “In the Middle East situation are your sympathies more with Israelis or more with the Palestinians?”

It is a question that makes the situation seem like a zero-sum game. It is a question that pits one group against another, rather than look at the accommodations they ought to accept. And yet, it has remained a standard question in many surveys (with some tweaks of the exact language) for many years. And this gives us the option of looking at long term trends by using one question.

The graph at the top of the page presents the full picture painted by this question from the late 60s until today. It includes data from all polls that use this formulation for asking a question (Gallup, Pew, Roper, Harris, WP, AJC, ADL, and many more) including the latest data from Gallup. In 2020, 60% to 23% Americans sympathized more with the Israelis than the Palestinians. This is very similar to last year’s numbers, and yet, at 23%, it is the Palestinian’s highest mark since the year 2000.

Again, we can see an interesting paradox in the numbers. As a general rule the image of Palestinians in America improves when a Republican is in power, and even more so when a Republican president tries to make peace. The peak year according to Gallup in the previous decade was 2007 (Bush’s Annapolis Conference), and the peak year according to Gallup this decade is now (the Trump plan).

As you can see in the graph (top of the page, or you can watch it here), when we look at the last 50 years, the gap is gradually widening in favor of Israel. But look at the next graph and see what happens when we look only at the last decade.

In the last decade, the gap between Israel and the Palestinians is gradually narrowing. Why? Partisanship. The more Israel and the Palestinians are seen as part of the general partisan agenda parties, the more the voters tend to pick sides based on their party affiliation. If this trend continues, we should expect the gap to continue downward.


Don’t forget to check out the latest Rosner’s Podcast where we host Dr. Einat Wilf and Adi Schwartz to discuss the new book: The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace. Listen Here.


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